Quadruple amputee Ellie prepares for snowboarding adventure with bespoke prosthetics
Champion para-swimmer Ellie Challis is breaking new ground by becoming the first quadruple amputee in the UK to become a snowboarder.
The teen from Little Clacton in Essex, who is a two-time British record holder in breaststroke, has taken up the sport so she can go on a special holiday this spring, with her older sister Tai’la.
With the help of Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK) instructors James Sterry and James Merrey, and Darren Swift — a former soldier who, like Ellie, has bilateral above-knee amputations — Ellie is learning the basics ready for the trip to Andorra in March, which has been organised by DSUK.
“I’m really excited to go on holiday with my sister,” said Ellie. “And I’m really enjoying learning how to snowboard. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time so it’s brilliant to finally get practicing!
“So far I’ve fallen over a lot but I think that’s pretty normal for everyone who learns. It’s a steep learning curve with snowboarding but once I get over the curve I’ll be able to do loads. I’m learning my turns and I’m going further on each run.
“I’m totally ready for my holiday, and this is definitely not a one-off, I want to go on more trips.”
Ellie, 14, lost all four limbs — her legs above the knee and her arms just below her elbow — when she was just 16 months old. But her disabilities have not stopped her doing whatever she wants.
Her dad Paul said: “She’s never once said ‘why me?’ She’s always been so positive and is so much more active than most able-bodied people are. She works with what she has, takes on everything with a smile, and she does an amazing job.
“I’m not going on the trip with her and Tai’la, but I am looking forward to seeing all the pictures and the videos when she gets back. We all hope she has a brilliant time, she’s wanted to do this for a while now and it’s never quite been possible until now.”
In order to help her hit the slopes, she’s been fitted with special prosthetic “stubbies” which connect directly to the snowboard much like regular boots. These were created by the team at Dorset Orthopaedic in Ringwood, Hampshire, where she’s been a patient since she was three years old.
Dorset Orthopaedic’s clinical services director Matt Hughes, who is Ellie’s main prosthetist, said: “Ellie has always been so determined to do whatever she puts her mind to, so when she said she planned to go on a skiing and snowboarding trip with her sister, we were not surprised at all!
“We were delighted to help her achieve her goal and become a UK first — maybe even a world first with her level of amputation — and we hope she has an incredible time.”
Mark Kelvin, Chief Executive of Disability Snowsport UK, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Ellie on to one of our hugely popular activity weeks. Traditionally DSUK attracts skiers but our new strategy aims to increase the availability of adaptive snowsport throughout the UK and beyond.
“It’s great to see Ellie demonstrating that the only thing preventing somebody from getting on the slopes, is their own belief. I’ve no doubt that Ellie will have an amazing time.”
Established in 1989, Dorset Orthopaedic is an independent provider of prosthetic, orthotic, silicone and rehabilitation services. As well as having comprehensive experience in meeting the needs of complex cases, Dorset Orthopaedic is also a specialist in silicone skin solutions.
It prides itself on providing total rehabilitation for its patients, a bespoke service and attention to detail.