Aiming to Ski for Light in Norway
More than four decades ago, Ron McIvor was plunged into darkness following a horrific car accident that left him almost totally blind. Today, the positive-minded and physically active 67-year-old lights the way for others.
This spring, he hopes to take part in the 50th anniversary Ski For Light cross-country event in Norway. His “track record” speaks for him.
In 2008, McIvor competed and brought home two second-place medals in two categories and in one, missed placing first by just nine seconds.
The Ski for Light event has three categories: B1 for totally blind persons, B2 for persons with less than five per cent vision, and B3 for persons with five to 10 per cent vision.
In Norway, the latter two divisions compete together (in Canada, the two compete separately). A sighted guide skis alongside participants.
McIvor’s has his mind set on his goal.
“I want to do better,” he told the Free Press. “This time, I’m going for first place.”
Skiing since 1983, McIvor has won many medals and trophies. Right now he’s getting in top shape for Norway.
He’s also aiming for a financial boost in the arm. Because he’s on a low, fixed income – and because he’s vision impaired, it is hard for him to raise money on his own.
So he’s hoping that local sponsors will help him in his quest to be best.
As part of his health and fitness routine, McIvor takes part in track and field events, he lifts weights, works out and trains at the local YMCA and he runs regularly. He’s fit as a fiddle and more athletic, he says, than he was at 19 – just before the Oct. 29, 1966 accident that cost him his sight but could easily have cost him his life.
“I was a passenger, riding in the back seat of a car. We were driving into town just outside Vermillion, Alberta. It was dusk. Road conditions were good,” said McIvor, pausing briefly to collect his thoughts. “We didn’t have seat belts back in those days. We were going downhill on a curve and the driver went over the centre slightly so he tried to correct himself. I saw his hand on the steering wheel, like this [he shows how] and then I knew we were going to flip.
“We started moving sideways, then we hit gravel, crashed right through the guard posts and then the car rolled over – end on end – five or seven times.”
He still remembers the horrible crash of wood and metal coming together, the mid-air motion, the fall down the embankment ... and then the silence.
“We cut off a telephone pole that was eight or 10 feet in the air as we went down. I ended up with my head over the front seat, my legs were still in the back. The car landed upright with the motor embedded in the ground. Two more flips and we would have hit the river.”
The driver was on the ground moaning, the other passenger was in terrible pain with a broken leg, so McIvor – who had a broken shoulder blade – made the trek up the hill, in darkness, looking for help from passing motorists.
“I tried to hail down traffic in the dark. People slowed down and looked but no one would stop. Finally a police car on patrol came by and I told him about the injured people and he got an ambulance.”
The driver sustained relatively minor injuries, he said.
However when McIvor was taken to hospital, doctors soon discovered that as well as his broken shoulder bone, McIvor’s vision was seriously impaired.
“I had to register as a blind person,” he said, raising his hand to adjust his inch-thick eye wear. Adjusting to his new life was not as easy.
“There are things I can’t do – like drive – and it was hard but I learned to live with it. I went to CNIB and one day they had a luncheon and asked me if I wanted to learn to ski.
“So I had my first race in 1983 and at the end of it, I was physically exhausted but now I know how to train for it.”
And while it may not be part of his physical training, McIvor also has a paper route and delivers newspapers for the Free Press. He hopes that by December both his fitness and finances will be in shape.
The cost for McIvor, a longtime volunteer with CNIB, to participate in Ski For Light in Norway is $4,500 which pays for registration, travel, food, accommodation and required extra medical coverage.
Donations for Ron McIvor can be dropped off at CNIB or Handy Circle Resource Society located at 490 Quebec St.
Ski For Light was founded to enhance the quality of life and independence of visually or mobility-impaired adults through a cross-country skiing program.