Australia's Callum Watson showed real drive to reach Games

PYEONGCHANG - Cross-country skier Callum WATSON (AUS) is hoping to finish in the top half of the men's skiathlon at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games but when it comes to his ranking as a driver, he is a top-five kind of guy.

After failing to attain visas that allowed him to work while he was in Sweden for cross-country training in 2017, WATSON returned to Sydney to save some cash to pay for his sport and found driving for an online ridesharing service was the quickest way to do it.

“I wouldn’t say it was the most enjoyable of experiences, but in terms of being able to get it through and get my plan (to pay for competing in PyeongChang) to evolve like that, it was a very beneficial thing to do,” WATSON said.

The service he drove for asks passengers to rate the drivers and on that score the 28-year-old proved a success.

“I didn’t want to be one of those guys that is on the edge of not being allowed to drive anymore (because of poor ratings), that’s for sure, I was trying to do my best. At one point I was in the top 5% in Sydney, so it wasn’t too bad,” he said.

The hard slog of driving “a lot of interesting characters” around to make it to PyeongChang 2018 came after a near career-ending injury that occurred six months after the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, when WATSON’s lung was punctured by another athlete’s ski at the Australian Sprint Championships.

“At the time it was incredibly debilitating, particularly those first 12 days when I was just stuck in a hospital bed and I could feel myself wasting away,” he said. “It’s pretty depressing for any athlete I think.

“Just the financial implications along with the mental stress of it all as well. At that point in time it was too much and I really felt as though I wasn’t wanting to continue.

“But thankfully I had so much support from the people closest to me, but also the global ski community getting me back on my feet financially. I felt like I almost needed to continue to show my thanks.”

After the hard and painful recovery from injury and the long hours on the road, WATSON is committed to repaying the faith of his supporters and hitting his goal of being in the top 50% to cross the line at PyeongChang 2018.

“I’m definitely going to be turning myself inside out trying to do my best.”

OIS wd/ajr/rm