【Picking Yourself Back Up, After the Fall】
It's common to hear about accidents in paragliding. We all know the same story, it always begins in the same manner – somewhere, somehow, an acquaintance, or friend perhaps, injures him or herself whilst flying.
Quite often the story ends in the same manner – with our said friend or acquaintance putting an end to their days of flying under cloth and strings made to float in the sky with the magic of engineering.
But this story is different.
As I sit and talk with Jonie Cheung, who was involved in a serious accident during a training course overseas. I learn that her story of recovery is one of hardship, passion, and tremendous courage.
This is a story of her fight to pick herself back up after the fall.
Please enjoy this interview with Jonie, and join me in welcoming her back to our flying community, as she walks us through from hospital bed and back to the sky.
【Hi Jonie, Thanks for taking the time to speak with us about your experience and good to see you back. Tell us about what happened and about your injury?】
JONIE: It was 2018 June 16th during an SIV course when the accident happened, we were practicing full stalls and spiral dives, but the instructor had said that my spiral dives weren’t deep enough. So the next day I entered a deep spiral dive. When the instructor told me to exit, I tried but then the brake pressure was too much. Much greater than what I had experienced before. It was too heavy for me to recover. Then I heard shouting for me to throw the reserve chute, but I couldn’t deploy it. I hit the water full speed, and lost consciousness. When I woke up I had been in the ICU [Intensive Care Unit] for 2 weeks, the doctor had to tell me that I had an accident and I was in an induced coma to avoid endangering my condition.
I thought I was dead when he told me. I had pain in my throat. I didn’t know where I was, and had no memory of what happened.
It was a very tough time, and I was very scared to see my legs suspended on the hospital bed, and my head shaved. I felt very helpless and very emotional. I cried and couldn’t rest for a month while I was there [in Austria]. After a month in that hospital with only the nurses to talk to, I finally got to go back to Hong Kong and be transferred to the hospitals in Hong Kong, where at least I had my family and friends.
上年2018年6月16號，我上緊SIV課程。 當時練習緊FULLSTALL同SPIRAL DIVE。教練前一天同我講話我SPIRAL DIVE做得唔夠深。 所以第二日我就做入深啲，但到教練叫我出SPIRAL（恢復正常飛行狀態）嘅時候 我先發現BRAKE 太重，重到我無辦法可以拉到。
【That sounds like quite the injury and must’ve been a very tough time like you said. I think it’s amazing that you’ve come from such a severe injury and back into flying. What motivated you to go back to flying?】
JONIE: I’ve never thought about giving flying, even immediately after my accident. Somehow I always knew I would get to go back to flying.
我從來冇想過唔飛行, 即使喺我出事之後。 唔知點解，我一直覺得我會回到飛行嘅地方。
【Why is that? How did you know?】
JONIE: Because paragliding has changed my life, it’s become my lifestyle. It’s given me freedom, it’s gotten me to start hiking, I would never have gone hiking on my own before I discovered paragliding. Flying has literally opened up a new perspective on life for me and I’ve met so many friends through flying, I could never give up that life.
因為滑翔傘改變咗我嘅生活, 它已經成為我嘅生活方式。 佢畀咗我自由, 令我開始行山, 喺我發現滑翔傘之前, 我絕對唔會一個人行山。 飛行真係為我打開了對生活的新認識, 我通過飛行遇到了咁多朋友, 我永遠不能放棄那種生活。
【There must’ve been some roadblocks along your journey back into flying?】
JONIE: Yes in fact there was. It was family pressure. They had really wanted me to stop flying out of fear that I would have another accident. My mom had been taking care of me after my return to Hong Kong for 2 months straight. She had to do everything for me, including to help shower me. I felt very sorry that I had made her worry because of my hobby. It made me even closer to my mom. I knew I wanted to get back into flying, but during that time I couldn’t even stand to pull my glider out, feeling too guilty to let my mom see. It was December and I wanted to go out to ground handle, my back was still in a bit of pain, but I didn’t let that stop me.
係呀, 其實係有的。 係家庭壓力, 他們真的希望我停止飛行, 因為驚我會再出事。 我媽咪喺我回到香港後連續两个月一直在照顧我。佢完全照顧我既起居生活, 包括幫我沖涼。 我感到非常抱歉, 因為我嘅玩意, 我令佢咁擔心。 呢個過程讓我更接近我媽媽。 我知我想重新開始飛行, 但在那段時間當中, 我甚至受唔住將滑翔傘攞出來嘅勇氣, 覺得好內疚呀， 好驚畀媽咪見到。 喺12月, 我想出去地面控傘, 我背部仲有 D 痛, 但呢個痛都阻止唔到我。
【So how did you overcome this feeling of guilt?】
JONIE: It was one time that my mom wasn’t home and my friends from paragliding convinced me to finally go. I always knew I would get back to paragliding, but it was my friends in the end that were the catalyst in helping me overcome this. I only went to ground handle, but as soon as I got back to controlling my glider I felt completely back to normal. I felt like I didn’t have any handicaps. I felt like there was no injury, no walking stick. It felt really good to be back to normal.
有一次, 我媽媽不在家,朋友又說服咗我最終攞咗隻滑翔傘出去。 我一直都知道自己會由頭黎過玩滑翔傘, 但最終我朋友好似催化劑咁幫助我克服。 我只去了地面控傘, 但我一開始控制滑翔傘, 我就感覺到完全恢復正常了。 我覺得我冇任何障礙。 我覺得自己好似冇受傷, 冇用拐杖。 恢復正常嘅感覺真係好好。
【So what about mom?】
JONIE: Mom didn’t know, haha. Ok well, Mom does know now, but she doesn’t stop me. I know she still worries, and I tell her that I will be extremely careful when I do fly.
媽咪唔知, 哈哈。 好喇, 媽咪而家知道咗, 但佢冇阻止我。 我知佢仲驚緊, 我同佢講, 我真係飛嘅時候我會好小心。
【How many times have you flown since?】
Only once, I’ve been waiting for the best weather. I tried to fly a few times at Ma On Shan, but the conditions weren’t good, I’m now waiting for South Lantau to become flyable so that I’ll have the beach to land easily.
只有一次, 我一直在等待最好嘅天氣。 我曾喺䩻鞍山試過幾次, 但天氣情況唔好, 我而家正在等待南風大嶼山嘅飛行, 咁我就可以很容易地喺海灘降落。
【That’s an interesting point, so has your views changed about flying after this incident? Has it changed your flying style or what risks you decide to take?】
JONIE: Yes, now I promise myself only to fly using dynamic ridge soaring. I’ll never fly in thermals, and I won’t fly outside of Hong Kong. It’s a lot of pressure [when you fly at other sites]. I have a renewed perspective about flying and I realize that having fun flying in Hong Kong is enough and there’s no need for me to go do massive cross countries or set any records. I have the easy conditions in Hong Kong, and that’s enough for me.
【有一個有趣嘅問題, 咁你對今次事件發生後對飛行的看法有無改變呀? 有無令到你改變咗你嘅飛行風格 或者改變你能接受到冒咩風險?】
係呀, 而家我保證自己只喺海風飛行。 我永遠唔會喺熱氣流場地飛行, 我都唔會去其他國家飛。 因為當你新地方飛時壓力好大。 我對飛行有了新的看法, 我意識到在香港享受飛行的樂趣就夠了, 我冇必要去創造任何紀錄或者飛好長遠既越野飛行。 喺香港輕鬆可以飛, 對我黎講已經足夠了。
【So you’re margins for weather is much stricter than before?】
Yes, and so has my appetite for risk.
【No thermal flying or travelling outside Hong Kong? Really?!】
Yes, never. But I won’t say that I won’t change my mind in the future. But you know, if I get rich someday, there’s no reason not to go travelling!
真係, 真係唔會。 但我唔會話我將來唔會改變主意，你知喇，利於如果有一日我發咗達, 冇理由唔去旅行啩!
【Both of us have been flying in Hong Kong for a little while now, and I’m sure we’ve both had friends who’ve been injured in the past and have given up on paragliding, maybe it’s because of family pressures and they decide that flying isn’t worth the risk. But what about the friends who want to get back into flying, the ones that love the sport but are maybe too afraid to take that step that you did? What sort of guidance would you give them?】
A lot of people are just too scared of the risks. The recovery is very tough, it is VERY tough. Mentally and Physically. But it was because I was so scared that I must fly again. I have an interest in psychology and just knew that it would affect me for the rest of my life if I didn’t at least get back to fly once.
And it was true, because mentally I feel much more relieved to know that I’ve done it at least once and that it was my choice whether I fly or not and that I wasn’t kicked out of it because of the fear of doing so. I would say, go back to the basics, and back to your safe zone.
Start at a place where you know, like ground handling at the top of MOS (Ma On Shan). Find friends, and instructors – a lot of people were willing to support me. But most important is to find yourself. At the end of the day, time will heal your body, but it won’t heal your mind, so you have to do that part yourself.
And lastly, only fly when you are ready. A lot of people have told me many times to try and that I was well enough to fly. But I only took off when I felt like I was really ready.
【你同我都喺香港飛了一段時間, 我相信我哋兩個都有遇過其他嘅傘友受傷過, 之後因爲受傷或者家庭壓力所以放棄了滑翔傘 , 佢哋認爲飛滑翔傘唔搏得過。 但對於受傷過又好想好似你咁重新開始回復飛行嘅朋友, 不過可能唔敢邁出你所做的一步嘅朋友 ： 你會俾佢哋咩提議呢?】
好多人就係因爲太驚會再受傷所以唔比自己接受任何風險。 康復既過程係非常難, 係十分非常困難。 精神和身體上都係。 不過係因為我好驚，我先知道我必須再飛。 我對心理學好有興趣,如果我至少唔飛番一次, 係會影響到我嘅餘生。
係真噶, 唔理我係咪繼續飛起碼我心裏面知道我至少可以再飛過一次, 而唔係因爲我驚所以以後唔飛。
由一個你熟悉嘅地方開始,例如䩻鞍山頂嘅起飛場在地面控傘。 搵身邊朋友、或者教練。 其實有好多人都好樂意支持我同幫我打氣。 但最緊要係搵返自己。因爲時間會治癒你身上的損傷, 但時間唔會治癒到你的心靈, 所以你一定要自己去做幫自己。
最後一點就係，記得真係覺得自己準備好先再去飛。 好多人都同我講話見到我控傘已經回復以前咁，話覺得我已經好返 可以嘗試去飛但我淨係當我真正覺得自己準備好既時候先去飛。
【Thanks for the amazing story. Is there anything else you’d like to say everyone?】
JONIE: Yes, this whole process has really convinced me that paragliding can be dangerous! Especially because immediately after the time of my accident, another close friend had died while paragliding in Hong Kong. And so I want to say to everyone to really listen well to others.
I mean a lot of people will say and claim that they are very safety conscious and that safety comes before anything else. But in reality I don’t think they are. A lot of times, our ego and pride get in the way of good judgement If people would listen more to others then I don’t think there would as many accidents in paragliding. More importantly, I hope everyone would realize why someone would come up to you to tell you it’s not a good idea to fly. Do you think they are trying to insult you? People are concerned about you, but if you don’t listen and take offence then the next time people would be less likely to offer their suggestions. They are telling you because we are all friends. There’s no room for such macho attitudes in paragliding, and I see that a lot.
有, 成個過程真係令我相信滑翔傘係危險嘅! 特別係因為我出事之後, 就有一位好友喺香港滑翔傘時意外出事死亡。 所以我想對大家說, 要真正好好聽別人的提示。
我既意思係, 好多人會自己聲稱自己好有安全意識,話自己係安全第一。 但實際上我唔認為佢哋係. 如果大家多點原意聽其他人意見嘅話, 咁我諗滑翔傘上就唔會有咁多嘅事故發生。 更重要嘅係, 我希望每個人都能意識到點解會有人嚟同你講,起飛不是個好主意。 你認為佢哋係想侮辱你呀? 啲人關心你, 但如果你唔聽同嬲, 咁下次 啲人就好可能唔再提醒你。 人哋提醒你只係因大家都係朋友，唔想你出事。 滑翔傘冇需要太大嘅自我主義態度, 因爲係呢D態度我都見過好多意外發生。
Point well taken. Good luck on the rest of your recovery and look forward to see you on the ridge!
Interview Date: April 21, 2019
By: Jackie Cen