Mark Inglis mountaineer, researcher, winemaker and motivational speaker is watching the ongoing Paralympic Games in London with a keener eye than most. This is because Inglis was a competitor at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney (Australia). The mountaineer, who lost his legs in a mountaineering accident several years ago, has stumps for legs.
He won a silver medal in the 1 km cycling time trial, “New Zealand’s first cycling medal in the Paralympics,” says Inglis over the phone from New Delhi where he is currently. He also emphasizes that; “the Paralympics are loosely translated by most people as the Olympic Games for the disabled. What they really are: ‘Paralympics --- a parallel Olympics’ that is the correct origin of the term. It reflects the spirit of these Games. It was such an exciting experience to be at the Paralympics and, they were at Sydney, which itself is a 'fantastic' place. I earned that silver medal, like all the other medallists, we have to earn that medal and I think that medal was as empowering as all the mountains I have climbed,” explains Inglis.
The man who makes molehills out of mountains both literally and metaphorically speaking is in India, his eighth visit to the country. Mark is here for, ‘First, People 2012’ a conference in Goa to be held on September 21 and 22, by a Human Resources (HR) association called The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). He will be speaking on Leadership Through Sports, drawing from his life and experiences in his speech. Says Inglis,
Perhaps Inglis does not need to talk, motivational or otherwise. To see him taking up challenges, he does not like the word ‘risks’, with two stumps for legs is hugely motivational itself. Inglis began work as a professional mountaineer in 1979, as a search and rescue mountaineer for Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is in the South Island of New Zealand. Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain and Aoraki/Mount Cook village lie within the park. In 1982, stuck in a snow cave on Aoraki/Mount Cook for 13 days due to an intense blizzard, Inglis’ both legs were amputated below the knee as they were frostbitten.
His life changed forever, in one swoop, he became a double amputee. Mark says when asked about the immediate aftermath of losing his legs, “It might seem like sudden, but it was not, it did not happen overnight. I was one month in hospital and it was a time when I came to understand and actually process what was going to happen. It’s different from maybe, losing one’s legs in a car accident. One day you are walking and the next day, you are an amputee. So, in my case, I treated is as a new challenge. Everyday is challenge.”
Mark returned to Mt. Cook in 2002. Asked whether that summitting was catharsis of sorts, going back to the place, which was responsible for his life-changing and tragic moment. Mark dismisses the catharsis question, saying, “No, not really, it was not a catharsis. You have huge respect for the mountains. It may be on that day that you had bad luck or maybe, you were simply not good enough on the day. For me, going back was simply a celebration of my ability rather than exorcising any demons,” signs off Mark who now has a charity called Limbs4all working on a number of projects, especially in Nepal and Cambodia.
The speaker and writer, (he has authored a number of books) has also developed a sports drink aptly called Peak Fuel, where he said, “my science and wine making background came together, to help me develop it.” Finally, asked whether he subscribed to the adage that several mountaineers claim to live by when asked why they flirt with danger. That adage is: ‘it is better to live one day like a lion than 100 years like a sheep’. “Oh, absolutely,” says Mark but adds, cheekily, "Sheep, I do not think live for 100 years,” proving that blizzards can take away his legs but not his sense of humour. Raise a glass to some In(gli)spiration. With Peak Fuel, of course.
A glittering career has been marked by some controversy. Reports citing Mark Inglis’s remarkable achievements, include that while ascending the Everest, Inglis and a party of 18 other climbers came upon distressed British climber David Sharp, but continued pushing towards the summit. Sharp subsequently died. There are plenty of versions about the incident, with some saying that there was nothing that could be done by then, others criticising Inglis and Co. while yet others say no one could be blamed, including Sharp’s mother herself, because critics were not there firsthand to assess the situation.