Model, activist, entrepreneur, award-winning Alpine ski racer and amputee Heather Mills tells Enable about her most recent challenge – Channel 4’s The Jump
You’ve just taken part in The Jump on Channel 4 – how would you sum up the experience?
I had an absolutely fantastic time on The Jump, it was brilliant. I could not believe how long the days were and how hard the training was. But the privilege of learning seven winter sport disciplines, especially the skeleton, was just incredible. When I was a kid I used to watch the Games in Calgary and I could never imagine having the opportunity to go headﬁrst down the skeleton at 90 kilometres per hour!
How much training did it involve?
Training was three disciplines a day and a one-hour drive to the resort from the hotel. We started with skiing in the morning, snowboarding in the afternoon and ski jumping in the evening. Other days were ski cross in the morning, sled dog in the afternoon and ski jump in the evening, six days a week, 15 hours a day.
How did it feel when you were eliminated on the ﬁrst night?
I was not surprised to go out on the ﬁrst night. In training I was jumping 16 or 17 metres. Abdo at the London Prosthetic Centre did an incredible job making me diﬀerent varieties of interchangeable legs last minute, and we had to really improvise with the ski jumping leg. The components could not handle the slamming of me jumping continuously for ﬁve weeks in training. I was very unlucky that the screw broke one day before the live show.
You ski competitively, but ski jumping is another matter entirely for amputees – were you nervous about it?
I was concerned about the ski jumping, but I knew we would take it one step at a time. James the coach was brilliant, and he was astonished that I managed to eventually go oﬀ the big jump and land without crashing. It was one of the top 10 experiences of my sporting career.
How did it feel to be the ﬁrst amputee ski jumper?
It felt amazing. I was told it would not be possible. I like to challenge people’s perception of disability and set my own boundaries. Once I was told I was too ambitious by a counsellor at the hospital when I lost my leg. Once I was told I wouldn’t dance. I was told I wouldn’t do Dancing on Ice. But I believe if you set your mind to it, you can do anything.
What would you like to see change for disabled people in Britain?
Things have come on a lot over the last 25 years, but there is a long way to go. I don’t think we should depend on what Britain should do though; I think we should make the diﬀerence ourselves and just push through. Stop sitting complaining and start getting up and just trying to do the best we can. It’s proven that this brings about change.