Hartford Ski Spectacular / 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Preview

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Hartford Ski Spectacular

Cameron Clapp

Cameron Clapp shows off the homemade prosthetic foot he uses for skiing. Photographs courtesy of Laura Fonda Hochnadel.

Subfreezing temperatures and total accumulation of about a foot of snow were posted in Breckenridge, Colorado, December 2-8, 2013, the week of The Hartford Ski Spectacular. Now in its 26th year of being hosted by Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) and in its 20th year of title sponsorship by The Hartford, more than 800 participants of all ages and abilities attended the event, including 17 Boston Marathon bombing survivors and more than 160 wounded warriors and their families.

The ski spectacular is one of the nation's largest winter sports festivals for adaptive skiers and snowboarders, and it grows larger every year, said Kathy Laffey, special projects manager for DSUSA. The athletic abilities range from beginners to Paralympic athletes. Amy Purdy, who has bilateral transfemoral amputations, and Evan Strong, who has a left transtibial amputation were on hand as part of The Hartford's team of athlete ambassadors. Purdy and Strong taught snowboarding clinics; both have been named to the first ever U.S. Paralympic snowboard team and are slated to compete in March at the Sochi, Russia, Winter Paralympic Games.

Adaptive alpine skier and Paralympic hopeful Tyler Carter, 20, was also in Breckenridge for the week. Originally from Topton, Pennsylvania, he lives in Winter Park, Colorado, during the winter months, where he trains with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD). Carter is a DSUSA E-Team member-"E" stands for emerging. He and other emerging adaptive ski and snowboard racers who are in DSUSA's feeder program for Paralympic athletes Laffey said, adding that the coaches, who hail from around the world, are "the cream of the crop."

downhill skiier

Carter is vying for a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team; he qualified in giant slalom.

Carter was born with fibular hemimelia; he underwent a right transtibial amputation when he was a year old. He's been skiing for about ten years and made E-Team four years ago. Attending The Hartford Ski Spectaculars have helped him to "grow as a skier," he said. Much of his time during the weeklong event was spent on Breckenridge's Peak 8, where the youth and racing camps were held. He and fellow E-Team member Joe Dertinger, who has a right transtibial amputation, practiced on the slalom and giant slalom course, where they had their performance assessed and were offered further instruction. They wear shin guards for protection against the course of poles, called "gates," they must pass between, sometimes taking turns so tight they knock them out of the way as they pass-a legal maneuver called "blocking."

Other snow sport opportunities during the week were held down the road at the Frisco Nordic Center, where Nordic ski and biathlon lessons and training were held, while free curling and sled hockey clinics were offered at Breckenridge's Stephen C. West Ice Arena on Friday, December 6. Aside from athletes receiving coaching, The Hartford Ski Spectacular offers adaptive ski and snowboard instructors myriad opportunities to further their own professional development, with education and credentialing available from the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI).

Instructors go over some last minute pointers with attendees before they hit the slopes on their sit-skis.

The Hartford Ski Spectacular's presenting sponsor is the U.S. Paralympics. Grant funding for this program is awarded by U.S. Paralympics through funding provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Partnering organizations include Disabled American Veterans, Maggie George Foundation, PSIA-AASI, Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers, Vail Adaptive Sports, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, and Breck Sports.

The 2014 Hartford Ski Spectacular is slated for December 1-7.

-Laura Fonda Hochnadel

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2014 Paralympic Winter Games Preview

The March 7 opening ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, is just weeks away. This is the Paralympics' Russian debut and the debut of snowboarding as a Paralympic event. About 700 athletes from more than 40 countries are expected to compete over the course of nine days in alpine skiing, snowboarding, Nordic skiing (which includes biathlon and cross country skiing), sled hockey, and wheelchair curling.

As of the date this publication went to press, only the members of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey and Wheelchair Curling Teams had been named. While space does not allow us to highlight all of the Paralympic athletes, and while not all of the athletes who are going to compete in Russia have been chosen, The O&P EDGE  would like to point out several U.S. parathletes who should be exciting to watch whether in the games or as they advance in their sports.

Allison Jones

Photograph courtesy of Randy Richardson, Hanger Clinic.

Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing offers five categories of competition: downhill, slalom, giant slalom, Super-G, and super combined. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has allocated the United States 28 spots in the alpine skiing competition. Skiers will be chosen for Paralympic competition no later than February 17.

Allison Jones

  • Birth year: 1984
  • Home: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Reason to watch: Allison Jones was born without a right femur. She made her Paralympic debut at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she won two silver medals in stand-up skiing. On the slopes, she has since gone on to win a gold medal in the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. She also has competed in cycling and track racing, having won medals in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, and in London, England, respectively; and in various Union Cycliste Internationale cycling events.

Snowboarding

Amy Purdy

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Gale.

Snowboard cross makes its Paralympic debut at the Sochi Winter Games. The IPC has allocated the United States ten spots, which is the maximum number of participants allowed per country; five men and five women will be chosen. Snowboarders will be chosen for Paralympic competition no later than February 4.

Amy Purdy

  • Birth year: 1979
  • Home: Summit County, Colorado
  • Reason to watch: Purdy underwent bilateral transtibial amputations when she was 19 years old, the result of having contracted a form of bacterial meningitis. Purdy began snowboarding when she was 15 years old and returned to the sport seven months after being fit with prostheses. She is the only international competitor with bilateral amputations and is ranked second in the world in the women's competition. She recently held the title as the highest-ranked female adaptive snowboarder in the world after winning three consecutive world cup gold medals. Purdy took silver in the IPC Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup in Landgraaf, Netherlands, on November 22, 2013.
Keith Gabel

Photograph courtesy of Edwin Stee.

Keith Gabel

  • Birth year: 1984
  • Home: Ogden, Utah
  • Reason to watch: Gabel lost his left foot after it was crushed in an industrial accident in 2005. By that time, he had been snowboarding for five years; he resumed boarding three months after the accident. As of November 30, 2013, he shared a number one ranking in the men's competition with Evan Strong, who, like Gabel and Purdy, is on the U.S. Paralympics Snowboard National A Team, as well as with New Zealander Carl Murphy. Gabel took silver in the IPC Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup in Landgraaf, Netherlands, on November 22, 2013.

Nordic Skiing

Nordic skiing covers the disciplines of cross country skiing and biathlon. Cross country skiing races range from 2.5 to 20 kilometers depending on gender and disability. Biathlon combines cross country skiing and sharp shooting. The IPC has allocated the United States 17 spots-12 men and five women. Those athletes selected to compete in Sochi were chosen by the end of January; this information was not available at the time we went to press.

Photo of Tatyana FcFadden not available.

Tatyana McFadden

  • Birth year: 1988
  • Home: Clarksville, Maryland
  • Reason to watch: McFadden was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. She has spina bifida, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. McFadden began wheelchair racing when she was eight years old. She competed in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Summer Paralympic Games, winning medals in 2004 and 2008, and advancing to the finals in 2012. She became the first athlete to win six gold medals at a championship, which she accomplished during the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France. Last year she also became the first person to win four major marathons in the same year. McFadden earned a national title in the cross country sprint race at the January 2-8 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Championship at Soldier Hollow Resort, Midway, Utah.
Andy Soule

Photograph courtesy of Ian Lawless.

Andy Soule

  • Birth year: 1980
  • Home: Pearland, Texas
  • Reason to watch: Soule is a U.S. Army veteran who underwent bilateral transfemoral amputations due to injuries he received in 2005, after the Humvee he was traveling in was hit by an improvised explosive device while he was deployed to Afghanistan. Soule competed in the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Canada; he competed in both cross country skiing and biathlon. By claiming the bronze medal in biathlon, Soule holds the distinction of being the first American-whether Olympian or Paralympian-to ever medal in the sport. He recorded four second-place finishes in biathlon and cross country skiing while competing at the January U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Championships at Soldier Hollow Resort.

Sled Hockey

Sled hockey was invented during the early 1960s at a Swedish rehabilitation center; a group of men wanted to continue playing hockey despite their physical impairments. The sport has been included in the Paralympics since 1994. The U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team includes 17 players, eight of whom were on the 2010 team that won the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver. Eight teams will be competing in the Sochi games.

Steve Cash

Photograph courtesy of USA Hockey/Gregg Forwerck.

Steve Cash

  • Birth year: 1989
  • Home: Overland, Missouri
  • Reason to watch: Cash was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the right knee and underwent amputation when he was three years old. He is the goal tender for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team; he was a member of the bronze-medal winning team that competed at the 2006 games in Torino and was on the gold-medal winning team that competed in the 2010 games in Vancouver. As a member of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, he has played in 86 games, 60 of which the team won either during regulation play or overtime; has logged 895 saves; and has had 23 shutouts.

The IPC has announced plans to provide online coverage via www.paralympic.org during the Games; the official Internet television channel of the IPC is www.ParalympicSport.TV. In the United States, NBC has obtained television rights to the Paralympic Games and will air 50 hours of coverage across NBC and NBC Sports Network.