AIS helps give Pianta a fighting chance in PyeongChang

Published: 06 Mar 2018

The nervous wait for Winter Paralympian Shaun Pianta continues, but the West Australian alpine skier has earned selection on the Australian Paralympic Winter Team for PyeongChang 2018.

The AIS athlete rehabilitation centre has played a key role in Pianta’s recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament tear in January, with the APC still requiring him to pass a final fitness test on his injured right knee ahead of his Paralympic debut on 14 March.

The 29-year-old embarked on an intensive and highly structured rehabilitation process with three weeks based at the AIS, before being cleared to return to snow at the Australian Para-Alpine Team’s training camp in Colorado.

AIS high performance experts involved in the process included Steph Shell and Steven Hughes from AIS Physiology, along with Physiotherapist Martin Wollin, Michael Speranza from Strength & Conditioning, Psychologist Kris Dun and Chief Medical Officer Dr David Hughes.

“The knee feels good,” said Pianta, “sometimes I catch myself thinking ‘is there anything wrong with my knee? So it is feeling strong.”

“My confidence is coming back slowly. I’m getting more confident after every run and obviously the more time I get on snow this week, the more confident I’m going to get.”

The inclusion of Pianta and his sighted guide Jeremy O’Sullivan now brings the total number of selected athletes to 12, along with three sighted guides, confirming Australia’s largest ever contingent to compete at a Paralympic Winter Games.

It also continues a dramatic campaign for the duo, who endured a hauntingly similar situation while on the verge of making their international debut in 2014. Pianta broke both of his legs in a training run, spent the next three months unable to walk and did not return to snow for seven months.

O’Sullivan will be guiding Pianta to fulfill his Paralympic ambition and he is excited to make his Paralympic debut, after a nail-biting final six weeks of a tumultuous campaign patiently.

“Shaun has put an unbelievable amount of effort into it," O’Sullivan said. “Everything he has been through to keep fighting and get back on top has been awesome. I had no doubt that he would put everything he had into it.”

“There have definitely been some tough moments, but I have just tried to stay positive for Shaun because I know he was going to put everything into it. I’m so proud of what he has achieved.”

2018 Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Nick Dean said he will be delighted to see the duo walk into the Opening Ceremony on 9 March.

“Shaun’s toughness, fight and resilience during his rehabilitation process has been incredible, and I am now looking forward to seeing both Shaun and Jeremy use this opportunity to deliver a world-class performance in their two events – the slalom and giant slalom.

“I also want to thank all the medical staff who devoted so much expertise and care to Shaun from the day he sustained his injury. I particularly want to highlight the work of the medical staff at the AIS, who welcomed Shaun to Canberra and gave him every chance to reach this point today.”

Pianta and O’Sullivan will make their Paralympic debut in the men’s vision-impaired slalom race on 14 March.

The 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games begin on 9 March.

Shaun Pianta and Jeremy O'Sullivan
Para-skier Shaun Pianta, left, and sighted guide Jeremy O'Sullivan. Photo: Australian Paralympic Team