Here are musings on my life as a member of the United States Disabled Ski Team and all that it entails. From traveling around the world to my successes and failures in competition to thoughts about disability.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

05/06 Season Wrap Up

It's been a month since I returned from the Paralympics in Italy. I recently spent a long weekend in Vail for a team fundraiser called Ski Tam. The event doubles as a huge conference for the cable industry. All of the money from registration fees (ranging from Bronze to Platinum) as well as a silent auction (with items donated from the companies themselves as well as US Ski Team gear donated by the athletes) goes to the US Disabled Ski Team. This is the event where three years ago I connected with the people at NBC Universal Cable that sponsor me individually. It's support like this that allows me and my teammates to be able to do what we do without having to worry so much about money. Ski Tam happens every spring after all of our competitions are over which makes it a fun time.

After Ski Tam I spent several days skiing with friends here at home in Winter Park. It has been a beautiful spring with many days of sunshine and perfectly blue Colorado skies. And getting the chance to free ski without coaches or race courses is incredibly refreshing and fun; a reminder of why I ever pursued skiing in the first place. There's nothing like having a mountain all too yourself (most skiers have abandoned skiing for their summer hobbies, like biking) on a warm day in April. But all good things come to an end and so did the ski season last Sunday when Winter Park closed for the summer. Not to worry, however, I plan to be on snow again in June at Mt. Hood in Oregon and I'm also working on getting down to Chile in August. So I guess the season never really ends, at least not for me.

Monday, March 20, 2006

GS and Slalom

Giant Slalom day was sunny and warm, about 3° Celsius. I skied somewhat conservatively on the first run and was fifteenth. My chance for a medal at this point was fairly remote and so I decided to take more risks and see how fast I could be. I really had nothing to lose. The start order for the second run begins with the 15th fastest racer of the first run and counts down to the fastest, after which the rest of the field goes in the order of their first run times. Starting first gave me a fresh course and I was looking to take advantage of it. I was fast on the first half but unfortunately laid my bucket down a bit too far and spun off course. I pushed back onto the course and finished the race but ended up well back of the leaders. I was going for it and have no regrets. At this point I considered my chances for a medal pretty much gone, even with the slalom event in two days.

I am not a very good slalom skier, but after discussing it with my coach, Kevin Jardine, I decided I would race it in the Paralympics. Looking back, this may not have been the best decision. I was exhausted by the time the race came around and in retrospect, I never had a chance. The best slalom skiers are so much better than me that it’s almost embarrassing to ski on the same course as them. I did not finish my first run and quickly skied back to the village to get ready for closing ceremonies later that night. I watched the second run on TV and was impressed by how good some of these guys really are at slalom. I’ve got a lot of training to do if I want to catch up, but I'm thinking I might just focus on the other three events and forget slalom.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Hundies Matter"

This is what’s printed on the inside of the zipper of our US Ski Team downhill suits. It refers to fact that by wearing the skin tight suit racers can shave all important hundredths of a second off of their times. I was wearing one such suit yesterday when I finished 4th in the Paralympic Super G by eight hundredths of a second (.08); evidence that “hundies” do indeed matter, and that perhaps I needed a slightly tighter fit to my suit.
The most exciting part of the day was having my own cheering section of fellow Catanzarites in the stands at the finish line. It was special to have my parents and brother and cousins and aunts and uncles there to share the experience with. Not too mention the emails I got from friends and family in Turino, Rome, Germany, and Australia who watched the race on TV. Many of my friends back home also got word of the results but were not, unfortunately, able to watch the race since it was not broadcast in the United States. Everyone who is interested can see the race at where the live feed will be archived. (Follow the link and once the player window has opened search for "sitting" and select "Alpine" and "Torino 2006". This should give you the option of choosing the Downhill or the Super-G race. I was number 41 following the visually impaired and sitting women and the visually impaired men. If you want you can fast forward to the men's sitting and watch my run.)

Regardless of finishing just out of the medals I am happy with my effort, especially after crashing in the Downhill race two days before. After all, fourth place among the 43 best mono-skiers in the world from 13 countries isn’t too bad. I feel confident going into the Giant Slalom race on Friday.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Paralympics: Day 4

Yesterday we were scheduled to train Super G but wind gusts up to 100 kilometers per hour shut the chairlifts down and kept us inside the village for the day.

Our first Downhill training run was scheduled for today. However, when I woke up I opened my curtains to heavy snow falling outside; bad for Downhill. After an hour long inspection of the course we sat in the snow at the bottom of the hill waiting for word on when or even if we would be starting. No sooner did the snow subside than the jury made the decision to cancel the run because of the danger presented by the soft snow, or so we thought. We soon learned that just as the jury was meeting to decide on what to do, the start tent was literally blown off the top of the mountain. Several of the people in the tent had to be taken off the mountain in stretchers and one of our team technicians was hit in the head and most likely suffered a concussion. This incident, in addition to the soft conditions, led to the cancellation of the training run.

We have training runs scheduled for tomorrow and the next day. We need to get at least one of these runs in to run the race, which is scheduled for Saturday (standing skiers) and Sunday (visually impaired and sitting skiers). Hopefully conditions will improve. Too much time hanging around the village has got everyone restless. I guess when you sign up for a sport that happens outdoors, in the winter, in mountainous areas you get used to days like yesterday and today, but it doesn't make them any easier to deal with. We're all anxious to get down to the racing.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Paralympic Village

Today was our second full day in the Paralympic Village in Sestriere, Italy. The main village is in Torino (a two hour bus ride away) and houses the sledge hockey and curling teams while all of the skiers, alpine and nordic, are staying here. All of the food and beverage sponsors for the games provide free snacks and drinks that the athletes can take from coolers and free vending machines around the campus. There are also several Playstaion consoles scattered about the coffee shop. Last night me and several of my teammates played against the Italian team in the official Torino 2006 video game.

The ski hill is just across the street from the village which makes things very easy (no getting up at 5am to drive an hour away, which is often the case when we try to save money on accommodations). We were allowed on the race hill today and it is in perfect shape. The snow is firm and fast and very smooth. The hill itself has a variety of terrain; beginning with a section of rolls that feeds into some flats that quickly break over into a steeper section that winds down to the finish. I can't wait to see the downhill course, it should be set by tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. Downhill training runs begin on Wednesday morning.