While Floris’ life was going downhill, he found the strength to reach the top.

Seven years ago, while literally going downhill as a professional freestyle skier, Floris Meijer (1989) broke his back. “I was flying mid-air doing a high-risk freestyle jump. Within a split second I knew was flying too high and too far to execute the jump and land it correctly. Now, paralysed from the waist down, Floris is a successful Paralympic athlete, en route to the Beijing 2022 Paralympics. As a professional skier before his accident, and in his current training regime, Floris is determined to get the most from the help and coaching he receives: “My perseverance and drive to become as independent as possible is what is making me feel a human being again. First and foremost, I’m a person. Yes, I have a disability, but I also have the passion and the ability to still reach the top.”

The strength of a true sportsman
Floris’ passion for the mountains and determination to ski again have helped him overcome all of the many challenges he faced throughout what has been an extremely difficult period following his accident. In just over a year after his accident, he was back on the slopes! Only now, in a sit-ski.

In addition to being an athlete, Floris is a professional wheelchair trainer, helping children with a disability and their parents overcome their interdependency. He teaches families how to handle the physical and mental challenges they face each day and, at the same time, helps the children improve their wheelchair skills and become more confident. Floris: “Improving wheelchair ability and skill plays an important role in helping children become more independent. It’s incredible to see how children grow confidence as they gain more control over their wheelchair.”

The right mindset
While unsolicited help and advice is mostly given with the best intention, and of course is appreciated, at times, it can be counterproductive. Especially if the wheelchair user is ignored and people start a conversation over their head. Having the right mindset, becoming independent and improving wheelchair skills are things people with a disability realise for themselves. A change in how society acts and reacts to people in a wheelchair is a challenge that needs more awareness. It is this societal challenge that has inspired Floris to become a top teacher and trainer, not only improving the lives of wheelchair users of all ages, but also showing society that wheelchair users too can function as independent individuals.”

Listen how Floris becomes a top TEDx Venlo speaker and
learn how he reached the top while skiing downhill,
teaching us how to ‘Be Brave’ from the bottom up!