Arly Velasquez: ‘You are able to do much more than you think.’
Arly Velasquez (30) is a professional monoskier. Being a sole representative from Mexico he shows that nothing is impossible. Living in a sun-drenched country without wintersport facilities doesn’t stop him from pursuing his career. As a matter of fact, Pyeongchang 2018 were his third Paralympics.
The road towards this sport has not been easy. When he was a young boy, Arly used to practise downhill mountainbiking. Being a natural talent, he even won the national championships. However, faith struck unexpectedly as he broke his back during a training at age thirteen. In the hospital he was told that he would never be able to walk again. What followed next was an extensive rehabilitation process during which he tried all kind of sports such as wheelchair basketball, swimming, rowing and handbiking. During a wintersport holiday ten years ago he found his true passion. Arly: ‘It was such a relief to be back in the mountains. The freedom you feel when you ski down a slope cannot be described in words. You feel one with nature and you lose yourself in the moment.’
Reaching the world top in monoskiing isn’t an easy task. However, Arly decided to go for it and eventually found a training base with Erik Bayindirli (an experienced monoskier from Park City), who offered him accommodation. Arly: ‘I can’t thank Erik enough for the knowledge that he has passed on to me. He taught me not only many things about the sport, but also about the equipment and important wheelchair skills. He is like a father to me.’ Soon it became clear to Arly that monoskiing requires more than merely technique and guts. The monoski itself needs to fit your body as a second skin, so that there is maximum control over the movements. Within this framework, he and Erik developed a custom made seat out of carbon fiber.
Another important element of the sport is the physical preparation. Skiing is a fast movement sport that is influenced by unpredictable circumstances, such as the wind and snowfall. The body needs to be strong and in optimate condition to be able to maintain control. Arly challenges himself in the gym with weights, ropes and other tools, but even outside of the gym he remains faithful to his exercises. Wherever he goes, he always take the TRX and elastic bands with him for instance.
As stated before, as he is a sole representative from Mexico, Arly doesn’t dispose of a team around him. He used to train alone in America or Canada. During the last couple of years he was fortunately able to join coach Marcel Kuonen. Arly: ‘It feels great not to be racing alone anymore. Mexico doesn’t provide with coaching for wintersport athletes. I hope to improve this by myself, so that future athletes will be more motivated to follow the route that I took. After all, it is a tough road.’ Typically Arly, because with his stamina the possibilities seem infinite. In fact, after the tragic accident he experienced he could have decided to never face the danger and speed in the mountains again, but instead he embraced it: ‘you are able to do much more than you think.’ A life motto that he is eager to pass on to everyone else.