A FORMER children’s ski champion from Tockington has fulfilled his dream to return to the slopes after a terrible car accident left him severely disabled.

Having been left with a brain injury and complex disabilities, resulting in very limited movement and losing the ability to speak, it was though 24-year-old former Olveston Primary and Marlwood pupil Ed Stephens, would never ski again.

But with the goal in his mind to return, he took to the slopes for the first time since the accident with a specially-adapted ski which he controlled with a switch he activated by moving his head from left to right.

The incredible feat was thanks to three years of worth with National Star College in Cheltenham a specialist further education college for young people with complex disabilities, with the special moment taking place on a trip to Andorra.

Ed, who started skiing as a child with his family, wanted to start racing at the age of 12, joining the British Ski Academy and represented Great Britain in international competitions.

In 2007, at the age of 14, he was crowned British Children’s Champion in Super Giant Slalom, beating 100 rivals in Meribel, France to win by 0.55 seconds.

The following season Ed went to the newly-formed Ambition Racing Team, under the stewardship of Marc Telling where he continued to find the podium at the English and Welsh Championships also competing in Junior FIS races all over Europe. Ed was approached to join Snowsport GB Youth Team.

Soon after and whilst taking his GCSEs, Ed was suffering with Glandular Fever, which shattered his fitness levels and Ed decided to quit skiing to focus on life outside of ski racing.

At the age of 19, Ed aimed to return the slopes, but it never happened with the car accident and further medical complications changing his life forever.

Arriving at National Star, a specialist further education college for young people with complex disabilities, Ed worked closely with the team of experts including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.

Now he has more strength in his neck and head which means he can use a switch to control a communication device. That strength is also helping him to speak again.

But through it all Ed had one objective, to get back on the slopes, which Verity Fisher, head of physiotherapy at National Star said was “a big milestone in his recovery”.

“This trip is the culmination of Ed’s hard work with the National Star team,” she said. “As an able-bodied skier Ed loved speed and he was so keen to experience it again. People underestimate the speed of a sit ski.

“For every student on this trip it is about facing new challenges and putting all the life skills they have learned in class to use in a real situation.

“Their disabilities are secondary. You see the individual first and proves disability shouldn’t be a barrier to many sports.”