Paralympic athlete Tori Pendergast travels the world as a female sit skier and is sharing her experiences and travel tips with us.
Image credit – Australian Paralympic Committee
Tell us a bit about yourself, your sport and your disability.
I’m Australia’s first female alpine sit skier and have a condition called sacral agenesis, meaning I am missing the lower portion of my spine. This means I have weaker muscles below my hip and use crutches to assist me. I live on the Central Coast and love to hang out with friends on the beaches of the coast while racing down ski fields.
What is the biggest challenge you encounter when you travel?
The biggest challenge I encounter is taking all the gear we need on the plane. In Paralympic sport athletes will typically have more equipment to compete in their sport. Outside of sport I also have extra medical items to take on the plane and it can be difficult getting them on a plane without getting massive baggage fees.
How do you overcome or manage this challenge?
Getting to check in early and calling ahead typically overcomes the challenge. Majority of the time you explain things prior to your travel they are happier to accommodate.
What makes travelling easier for you?
Making sure I’m not overdoing it and checking if accommodation is accessible makes travelling easier for me. It can be a challenge taking heavy luggage upstairs so checking for an elevator is vital! I also get blisters from using my crutches so ensuring rooms have air conditioning is important as well.
Image credit – Paralympic Committee
Tell us about a holiday or trip you’ve taken that was a success? What made it a success?
My recent trip to Japan with ANA airlines was a success. I spent 5 days in Toyko and Osaka getting around using their public transport. Having a Japanese guide really helped and made it a success. The airline was also very helpful offering me assistance and early boarding at every gate.
What are your top travel tips? What do you wish you knew the first time you travelled?
My top travel tips are:
1) Call ahead
2) Don’t be scared to ask for help
3) Plan your trip in advance and scope out what is accessible/what isn’t
4) Just give everything a go, majority of the time there is a way around the obstacle!
I wish I knew the baggage guidelines better so it wouldn’t have been so expensive!
What does travel mean to you?
Travel means freedom and experiencing new things. It is about doing things independently that people doubted you could do. One of my best trips was doing Busabout around Europe in hostels for a couple of months. Being able to do it with everyone else and overcome any issues that came my way was a great feeling.
What improvements would you like to see in the future in the tourism industry? What would make travel easier for you if it was implemented?
If airlines/public transport could have a better understanding of disabilities and what equipment/needs we have that would be greatly beneficial. The majority of the time the key issue is a lack of understanding and knowledge that leads to other complications.
Tell us about the next event you are training for and your hopes for it.
Next event is world championships in Italy and Slovenia. I aim to podium!
If you’d like to read more about Tori’s career you can check out her profile on the Australian Paralympic website. A big thanks to Tori for taking the time to share and to the Australian Paralympic Committee for the terrific photos.