Sliz, Skye sign up for Wings for Life

By Craig MacKenzie

Gemma Sliz (front row, far right) and some of the Skye United team competing in the Wings for Life World Run.

Sliz, Skye sign up for Wings for Life

By Craig MacKenzie

Former top jockey Gemma Sliz and 16 players, coaches, administrators and supporters from Skye United soccer club will compete in the 2017 Wings for Life World Run next month.

The event takes place on Sunday 7 May at 11am UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) which translates to 9pm at night in Melbourne and all proceeds go towards spinal cord research.

Across its first three editions (2014, 2015, 2016), the Wings for Life World Run attracted more than 280,000 people from 193 nationalities running in around 40 countries across six continents. They raised 13.8 million euros while covering more than 2.8 million kilometres.

The Melbourne event starts at Patterson Reserve in Hawthorn East and continues along the Monash Freeway eastbound which will be cordoned off during the run.

A half hour after the race starts, a moving finish line, the Catcher Car, chases runners along the course, gradually getting faster until each one is caught.

The first runners passed after a few kilometres are the first to celebrate their accomplishments, while the last man and woman to be caught are declared Global Champions.

Participants pay an entry fee of either $66 (if registered before 31 March) or $71.50 and 100 per cent of monies raised goes directly to life-changing spinal cord research projects and clinical trials at renowned universities and institutes worldwide.

It is a cause dear to Sliz’s heart as she would have ridden in the 2004 Melbourne Cup but for a fall that left her with serious spinal injuries and eventually forced her to quit a sport she loved deeply.

In January 2004 Sliz was the toast of New Zealand racing after guiding Upsetthym to victory in the Group 1 Auckland Cup.

In September of the same year a fall at Ruakaka left the champion apprentice with three broken vertebrae in her lower back, broken ribs and broken bones in a foot.

It also left her wondering if she would ever walk again.

“I wasn’t allowed to move for six weeks and although my mind knew what to do my body couldn’t do it so I had to learn to walk again,” said Sliz.

“It was quite a hard time,” she says in an understated manner.

She returned to racing after a lengthy rehabilitation but the emotional and physical scars remained.

“It takes its toll on you both mentally and physically and I had to stop riding, not just for my own safety but for the safety of the horses and the other jockeys.

“It’s a very demanding sport. You are riding a 500 kilogram animal travelling at around 70 kilometres an hour and there are no seatbelts or roll bars so when you hit the ground you hit it with a lot of force.

“You have to make split-second decisions and if you start second guessing yourself you are putting everyone in danger and that’s what happened to me so I had to stop riding.”

Sliz has friends who haven’t been so fortunate and she is competing in the Wings for Life event for the third time.

Gemma Sliz and 2004 Auckland Cup winner Upsetthym.