Are you already missing the excitement of the Winter Olympic Games? There’s more action to come, as the Paralympic Games get underway in Sochi on March 7. The Paralympics are a major international multi-sport event involving elite athletes with a range of permanent physical impairments, including amputations , visual impairments, spinal cord injuries , permanent loss of range of movement, ataxia (spasticity), cerebral palsy and intellectual impairments.
The Winter Paralympics feature a variety of events in five major areas: alpine skiing (which now also includes snowboarding), biathlon, cross-county skiing, ice sledge (sled) hockey and wheelchair curling. The Paralympic events take place at the same venues as the Olympics, and athletes are required to qualify to make their countries’ teams in the same manner as the Olympic Games.
While TV coverage will not be as widespread as for the Olympics, NBC and NBCSN have signed an agreement to televise some of the events, and coverage can be seen at Paralympic Sport TV and TeamUSA.org . View the schedule on Team USA’s website .
I have been providing instruction for people with disabilities at the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports at Camelback since 1998. There are two athletes from our area whom I had the privilege of teaching at the center:
- Stephanie Jallen is competing in alpine skiing in the downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super G and super combined events. She grew up in Harding, Pennsylvania (near Wilkes-Barre). “Rather than fear the storm ahead, learn to dance in the rain” are words that Stephanie lives by. Stephanie was born with a rare birth defect called CHILDS, a chromosomal disorder that affects the entire left side of the body, leaving Stephanie with only one leg and one fully developed arm.
- Tyler Carter, from Topton, Pennsylvania, is also competing in alpine skiing, in the giant slalom. He was in the stands to watch the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games as part of the Paralympic Experience Vancouver delegation for young student athletes, and now only four years later, it’s his turn to compete. Tyler had his leg amputated as an infant after being born without a fibula. Carter is relatively new to international competition, having raced in his first ever-world cup race in January of 2014. His top 20 finish in giant slalom, however, was strong enough to land him a spot on the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team.
Also watch for these exciting athletes:
- Oksana Masters, from Louisville, Kentucky, is competing in Nordic skiing in the sit ski events for cross country and biathlon. She medaled in the summer Paralympics in London in rowing and hopes to be one of the few athletes who have medaled in both the summer and winter Paralympics. Born in Ukraine, her legs were damaged by in-utero radiation poisoning from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident.
- Heath Calhoun, from Bristol, Tennessee, seen in AT&T commercials, is competing in alpine skiing in the mono ski division. A retired Army staff sergeant, Heath has gone from the battlefield to the ski slopes. While deployed in Iraq, Calhoun was severely injured when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his Humvee, resulting in the amputation of both of his legs above the knee.
- Lindsay Ball, from Benton, Maine, is an alpine skier who competes in the visually impaired events. She skies with a guide who tells her when to turn. She was born with retinitis pigmentosa and can only see light and dark, shapes and shadows.