Corie Mapp World Champion
SHERRYLYN A. TOPPINM, Nation News
February 22, 2015
CORIE MAPP isn’t a man with a disability.Rather, he is embracing a second chance at life and is already making a name for himself in a sports he probably never envisioned competing in.
Last month, Mapp, 36, who now resides in England and has British citizenship, won the first ever gold medal at the inaugural Paralympics World Cup in the Para bobsleigh event, just 0.18 seconds ahead of American Jason Sturm.
It was that close, but it is as far as you can imagine from Clifton Hall, St John, where he lived, and it all started after he lost both legs in the Afghan War almost five years ago. A lance corporal in the British Army, he was travelling in a tank that rolled over an improvised explosive device (IED) in 2010.
Corie Mapp wins Overall Para Bobsleigh World Cup.
“We ran over an IED. The explosive device demolished my vehicle, and I lost both my legs,” he told a local newspaper as he listed his injuries “broken jaw, severed lip, punctured lung . . .”
Mapp lost his battle with the Taliban, but not the will to live. He was flown to a Birmingham hospital and was in an induced coma for eight days. he underwent several operations. Both legs were amputated below the knee. He is categorised as a bilateral below the knee amputee, the same as Brazil’s Olympic champion Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira and South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius.
It was while going through physical therapy and rehabilitation that he started playing sports and went to British trials for sitting volleyball. No slouch in that sport either, Mapp won a gold medal at last year’s Invictus Games for wounded servicemen and women.
The person who was in charge of volleyball asked him if he would be willing to try out for bobsleigh, which he did for the first time last year.
“That came through being a reconnaissance tank driver because the principles are basically the same, pushing and pulling and whatever else. I went and gave it a go and the coaches liked what they saw,” Mapp said.
The father of three girls embraces his role as a full-time athlete. Training is intense just like for any other sport, especially one which relies mainly on upper body strength. In addition to strength and conditioning, circuit training and cardiovascular work, there is the manning of the bobsleigh.
Mapp explained they train on the track for a week where they learn the unique bends and how to ride it, and then they get two runs on race day. The combined time determines the positions.
The inaugural World Cup was held in Igls, Austria on January 23. Although he also does dual bobsleigh, this victory came on a solo ride.
He admits being nervous.
“The times that I had posted in training all week were pretty decent. Obviously there was an element of nervousness because it was the first Paralympics World Cup race. They had a lot of officials from the governing body there, the president, people you don’t want to fail in front of. There was a lot of pressure and I was the only person representing Great Britain there,” he explained.
“In my job as a solider and as a policeman in Barbados you had to learn to cope with pressure. It turned out pretty allright.”
Mapp is now ranked second in the world based on points earned at the World Cup. He won two races and finished seventh in another, while Sturm won one after placing second twice behind him and is ranked No.1 in the world.
One thing that comes through very clearly in speaking with
Mapp, even across thousands of miles via the telephone, this is not a man who feels sorry for himself, nor has his disability held him back in any way.
“I tend not to look at the glass as half empty. I am very, very grateful for the opportunity to still be alive, because really and truly I should be a dead man,” he said frankly when asked about his outlook on life.
“I look at it as a second chance to explore and do things that I ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to do. I look at it as an opportunity to enrich somebody else’s life. I want people to be able to look at me and say ‘he had a rough break and he didn’t let it get him down’.
“I want kids to look at me and see in life you will have bumps but you can rise above them and you can still achieve. You can still dream big, as big as if you were “normal”, uninjured. You can still achieve pretty much anything you put your mind to and for me that is becoming a world class athlete.”
There are men in their 50s who are still competing at a high level in bobsleigh, so Mapp reckons he has quite a few years ahead of him yet in the sport.
“It gives me an opportunity to go to the Olympics and excel and represent both countries,” he said.
“Obviously Britain is the place that is sponsoring me and putting me through this . . . but really and truly I still see it as a medal for Barbados.”
This weekend, Mapp and Sturm will be heading to Lake Placid in Albany, New York, to train.
“That is one of the hardest tracks in the world. I am going there to do some training with the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a project that helps wounded soldiers get involved in Paralympic sport.”
Meanwhile, Mapp continues to train towards competing in sitting volleyball at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
That is where he will have to focus his energy for now because the International Paralympic Committee has said Para bobsleigh won’t be included in the Paralympic Games for at least another seven years.
With all that he has achieved, there is no reason to doubt he won’t still be going strong at age 43.