Trevor Kennison soars in freestyle wheelchair skiing, eight years after a serious snowboarding accident
The 20,000 spectators of the Annecy High Five Festival Although they may be experienced in the projects of freeriders, each more insane than the other, they fear being amazed when they discover freestyle wheelchair skiing. American handiski athlete Trevor Kennison (30 years old) will indeed be in France for the first time in his life on Saturday (9:45 p.m.), in order to present an extract from his feature film full circlethe final release of which is scheduled for 2023. The spectacular high-altitude tricks inherent in freestyle take on yet another dimension in uniskiing.
If he now shines in this world of extreme sport, thanks in particular to his unprecedented performance for a disabled athlete in the legendary Couloir de Corbet in Jackson Hole (Wyoming) in 2019, then to a link of about twenty meters on the Big Air of the last X Games in Aspen (Colorado), Trevor Kennison only revealed the discipline six years ago.
He lay in the snow for 3.5 hours
And for good reason, the one who now resides in Winter Park (Colorado) was throughout his adolescence a sportsman “good everywhere”, whether in football, basketball, baseball, snowboarding and swimming. A plumber for four years, this son of marathon runners saw his life change dramatically in November 2014 (aged 22), during a snowboarding outing with two friends at Vail Pass (3,250 m above sea level, Colorado).
My snowboard hit the ground when taking off and I flew like Superman, without being able to control anything. I landed hard and fractured two vertebrae. There was a huge storm, so I had to lie in the snow for three and a half hours, unable to move, until the rescuers found me. I struggled to stay awake because I felt like if I closed my eyes I would never wake up. »
From disabled basketball to uniskiing
Emergency operated, Trevor Kennison lost the use of his legs in this terrible accident. “When I was lying in the snow, I still didn’t think about the prospect of being in a wheelchair, losing my job as a plumber, snowboarding, all those things that I loved so much, he confides. . Suddenly, I had to learn how to live in a wheelchair on a daily basis before considering, six months later, doing handibasket in a care centre. »
The path of this athlete with boundless energy, who has always been passionate about basketball, seems to have been found. But his sister Ashley insists that he come and try uniskiing in Aspen, nearly one year after his fall. “The first time, I was lost, I didn’t know how to turn and I had the impression that I was going to crash into the trees, he smiles. But I quickly became addicted. »
“Why wait for the races to go down the mountains? »
Trevor Kennison therefore spends most of his year 2016 going skiing with his brother-in-law and he sets himself a new goal: “I wanted to participate in the Paralympic Games on skis, but the thing is, there was no already more than racing events. For three years, I won a few trophies in the United States. But I continue freeski as soon as I could. I am like that, very independent. On one of the magnificent mountains, so why wait for the races to descend them all? My goal became more and more to make back somersaults than aiming for the Olympics”.
A wildlife which will allow him to earn the respect of the greatest freeriders on the circuit, starting with the famous tanners room, multi-winner of the X Games, who relayed the videos of his flights. So much so that in 2019, Trevor Kennison decides to spend all his time in the ski chair, with which he performs figures that he had never imagined when he was an able-bodied snowboarder. “Doing double backflips in uniski is unheard of,” enthuses Rafael Regazzoni, programmer of the High Five Festival, who offered to invite him to Haute-Savoie this week. There had been a bit of wheelchair boardercross before at the X Games, but no such jumps on a Big Air. It is enough to see the respect shown to him by the greatest freestyle skiers in the world to understand where his performances are described. »
“I got rid of something”
“A lot of people around me told me that it was totally crazy to try to live off that,” he continues. For me, it’s no more risky than for a valid, I don’t try anything stupid. But as soon as I started doing jumps and doing all these tricks, my father and my sister tried to encourage me to find “a real job”. The one chosen by the American leads him in 2020 to Vail Pass, for his first return to the traces of his accident.
It was a magical day, so full of emotions. It made so much sense to me. I lost the use of my legs and so many other functions of my body. So it was amazing to be able to come back, six years later, and do a trick there that less than ten athletes in the world have done. [il la garde secrète]. I was nervous as ever but I needed to be there, for me, not for the sponsors, the fans or my family. It’s as if I came to accept my injury for good. I broke free from something, it’s Full Circle, man. »
More than a spectacular ski film, this one is, according to him, “a touching documentary whose story is much bigger than me”. Rafael Regazzoni is convinced of this: “All the festival-goers will only talk about his story this weekend, especially since they will discover in front of them a guy with an attitude and a vibe incredible”. Trevor Kennison precisely dreams, with his career, of “giving hope” to Annecy and all over the world. While projecting again on his desires for the Paralympic Games with Colombia, the country of his mother: “As a child, I wanted to participate in the Olympic Games in swimming. Finally, it will perhaps one day be the Paralympic Games in ski racing”. An improbable trajectory that pushes him to feel “lucky”. Did you say life lesson?
All the information on the High Five Festival, which takes place from Friday September 30 to Sunday October 2 in Annecy, is to be discovered here.