Thursday, September 1, 2011

Greg Mallory - Extreme ParaAthlete


Photos courtesy of Greg Mallory
Greg Mallory is, among other thing, a lawyer, L1 Paraplegic, white water kayaker and Captain of the U.S.Disabled Nordic Ski Team, a post that he was nominated for by the other members of the team. He has been in the chair 13 years, kayaking 12 of those, and is the 1st disabled person, in a group of 1st people, to conquer the remote Mangde Chu river in the
Himalayan region of Bhutan.

These 1st peoples trip was broadcast on the Discovery Channel and was aptly named "Adventure Bhutan," I had no idea about Greg's involvement, but I did have every intent of watching the program anyway. I like those kind of shows, so imagine my surprise when the expeditions leader and trip organizer announced "paralympic and paraplegic athlete Greg Mallory."

If my neck wasn't already fused I probably would have needed it after my head snapped around to face the television. The documentary was awesome, As I said in the last paragraph, he was the first para to navigate the Mangde Chu, and after a few emails to find him I got a short telephone conference. It was really cool that I was able to ask him some questions, one person in a chair to another.

Ralph: How did you get involved with "Adventure Bhutan?"

Greg: Two of my teammates were friends of mine, Brooke and rookie Will Hovey. I met Gerry Moffatt, the expedition's leader, a few years back and when I got his email asking if I wanted to be involved..... well the answer is obvious.

Ralph: Bhutan has some ridicilous topography, seeing you getting dragged in your kayak to the put in was kind of cool. Your position on the team was alot of responsibility. Safety Kayaker, being responsible for others, that's a big deal.
Greg: The Himalaya's aren't an easy place to travel, and it is certainly a sense of accomplishment.

Ralph: Getting back to the river.... There were a few places on the trip when the river wasn't run, places that one of your teammates described as "50-50 at best." The documentary completley leaves you out at these points. They are called "Portage" and required lots of climbing and walking. That oviously isn't happening, and how much dragging was done?

Greg: It definitely doesn't come across on the show how difficult it was. It felt like they made less out of the logistics than there was. There was a point, I was on a horse, a small himalayan style horse, and the horse's leader didn't seem concerned. We were going up a steep trail, I was hanging on for dear life.

Ralph: I bet some of the people of Bhutan had never seen a person in a chair. In the documentary some of your teammates went into this amazing Buddhist temple, the temple had some crucial stairs and ladders, and again there was no mention of your experience. Did you get a chance to go in any of those temples?

Greg: Yeah it was obvious that some of the people of Bhutan had never seen a wheelchair, it is an immensely isolated country. Bhutan's culture and their people are very humble so there wasn't any feeling I was a "freak show", and yes I went inside the temples, some of the boys (my teammates) carried me up the stairs.

Ralph: Towards the end of the documentary there was a class 5 rapid, and it was pretty obvious nerves were playing a part in your decision to run it or not.

Greg: Not many people in a chair boat, and I was the 3rd person, and the 1st para to ever do that section of river. It wasn't the hardest section of river I have done, but it was humbling and very fulfiling to be the 1st disabled person.

Ralph: What's the deal with your position and the responsibilities as Captain of the U.S Disabled Nordic Ski Team?

Greg: Not too much right now. It's the off season for skiing and I'm just training cardiovascular and strength. The World Cup is in the beginning of 2008 and as that gets closer my training will be more ski specific. Mostly it is just communicating with the coaches and team members.

Ralph: How about some of our options in the future to get up and walk again. I mean "stem cells or cyborgs." If you had your choice which would you pick?

Greg: Stem Cells definitely. I don't know alot about cyborg technology, it's not something I look into regularly.

Ralph: I understand that. Cyborg technology and robitics is kindof an obsession of mine. Did you know there is an exoskeleton built in Japan that nearly summitted the Matterhorn with a quadriplegic? It's based on bio-feedback sleeves that the user puts their limbs in and then a computer interprets their muscle signatures, amplifying them with batteries and outputting the amplified signal to motors built into the joints of the exoskeletons frame. Maybe it's a little crazy but that's the route I would go.

Greg: No I had no idea about that. I went to the Miami Project shortly after my injury for therapy and bio-feedback so it's definitely interesting.

Ralph: When you dream are you in or out of the chair? For me even if I'm out of the chair it's always present, somewhere in my field of vision.

Greg: For me, in my dreams I'm either in or out of the chair. It's one way or another.
Ralph: Any plans for other adventures coming up?

Greg: I'm probably going to Idaho for a kayaking trip. Other than that just lots of kayaking, multi day training and staying in shape.

Ralph: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me.

Greg: It was my pleasure, take care.

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