Growing Up With a Disability
I am now 28 years old and have been active my entire life. I was born with a deformed femur in right leg. At nine months old my parents made the decision to have my foot amputated and my femur and tibia fused together. This could have set me up for a life of lower expectations and lower activity levels but not with my parents. My mother and father were very active and I was to take part in everything. I learned to ride a bike, skate board, rock climb, white water raft, hike, ski, and to just be a kid. I only knew to be a kid and not someone with a disability.
Me with Skis
I started skiing at the age of 5 as the result of my mother trying to find a sport that my whole family to take part in. I started skiing with the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado. At the beginning we went up a couple of times each winter, then over time it became every weekend, and then holidays. When I was 8 years old my instructor told my mother that I didn’t need any more lessons but with the desire that I had to learn more and to go faster he sent me over to the competition program. I started training and started getting faster. I never thought that this was going to be my career, I was just having fun. I got to travel to Utah and Canada, and I made friends with members of the US Disabled Alpine Ski Team. When I was 15 I made the move up to the Winter Park area with my father to ski full time.
A year later in 2000 I made the US team. I was still in high school so I learned quickly how to balance both skiing and school. In 2002 I was selected to the World Cup Team and the Paralympic Team. I won my first international medal in Querays, France (3rd in the Giant Slalom). I also won two silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Paralympic Games in the Giant Slalom and the Super-G. I continued to ski through college competing at the 2004 World Champions in Austria where I won the Downhill, Giant Slalom, and Slalom, and a silver in the Super-G. I finished the 2004 season off 2nd overall in the world, and overall champion in the Super-G. In 2006 I competed at the Paralympics in Torino, Italy. I finished 7th in the Downhill, 4th in the Super-G, 5th in the Giant Slalom, and Gold in the Slalom. I am currently getting ready for the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver, Canada with a full World Cup series and World Championships to compete in this year.
Me with a Bike
I learned to ride a bike like any kid, training wheels and in my case duct tape to keep my right foot on the pedal. I was always looking for something to do in the summer when I wasn’t skiing. For a while I was swimming with the Colorado Springs Swim Team at the outdoor pool on the Olympic Training Center Complex. My sister was not a good swimmer and didn’t really want to take part to the degree that I did so it became just me after a while. Living in Colorado Springs there was always something to do and often we would visit the local Velodrome when ever we saw the lights on. Usually it would be just a locals race, maybe even a nationals, once it was the Junior World Championships. In 1998 we went to the velodrome just as if it were a normal race going on and low and behold it was the Disabled World Championships. I had never seen someone with a disability compete in cycling before and I was very interested. My mother found the first American coach and asked how to sign up and learn to ride. The following spring I was being taught how to ride a track bike, never have ridden a normal road bike. I started to compete locally not realizing what opportunities were out there for me. I went to the disabled nationals, which coincided with junior nationals in T-Town, Pennsylvania. I competed in both the disabled athletes and the junior riders.
I tried out for the 2000 Paralympics not knowing that there was no female category so I had to race against the men, I told myself then that I was going to stick with it and in four years most of those competing would have retired and I would have a better chance at competing. In 2002 I made the World Championship team and traveled to Aldenstat, Germany. I won two silvers and a bronze. I continued to ride and in 2004 I made the Athens Paralympic Cycling Team. I placed 4th in the Kilometer Sprint and 6th in the Road Time Trial. In 2006 I competed in the World Championships in Aigle, Switzerland, where I place 3rd in Road Time Trail. I repeated my performance at the 2007 World Championships in Bordeaux, France. In 2008 I competed in the Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China where I placed 2nd in the Road Time Trial. I have put the bike away for the winter to focus on skiing but I am very much looking forward to training for the 2012 London Summer Paralympics.
Me and School
Through skiing and cycling I still went to school like any other kid. I went to the local elementary, middle school, and the first part of high school in Colorado Springs. In 2000 I spent the winter and the rest of my high school career at Middle Park High School so that I could ski full time. I graduated in 2002 with a full ride scholarship to the University of Denver from the generosity of the Willy Schaeffler Scholarship Endowment Fund. I majored in Mechanical Engineering. DU was a great school for skiing because it is on a quarter system and in 2004 and 2006 I took the winter quarter off so that I could ski full time with the ski team. I was also able to train with the DU Ski Team on and off of the snow. The faculty at DU was very supportive and were willing to rearrange schedules so that I could continue to ski and cycle while in school. I graduated in 2007 and was the recipient of the Pioneer Award, the highest award by the school to an undergraduate. I have future plans to return to school to get a masters in prosthetics and orthotics.