News / Arts & Entertainment

    Disabled Vets Glide Toward Paralympic Glory

    U.S. Paralympic National Team member Andy Soule races during the 2013 Sun Valley Nordic Festival. (VOA/T. Banse)
    U.S. Paralympic National Team member Andy Soule races during the 2013 Sun Valley Nordic Festival. (VOA/T. Banse)
    Tom Banse
    The one-year countdown to the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games has begun.  

    The competition for physically disabled athletes takes place directly after the Olympic Games.  

    The U.S. Nordic team appears likely to be composed nearly entirely of injured military veterans, who train at several high-end ski resorts, which have become hubs of healing for veterans.

    At a recent cross-country sprint-racing exhibition in the ski resort town of Ketchum, Idaho, also known as Sun Valley, spectators marveled as a one-armed ex-Marine sped by. A nearly blind former Navy linguist raced behind a sighted guide.

    Numerous amputee and paraplegic veterans powered around the course solely on the strength of their arms and abs, riding a contraption aptly called a "sit-ski."
    U.S. Paralympic National Team member Sean Halsted competes in the biathlon, which combines cross country skiing and target shooting. (VOA/T.Banse)U.S. Paralympic National Team member Sean Halsted competes in the biathlon, which combines cross country skiing and target shooting. (VOA/T.Banse)
    x
    U.S. Paralympic National Team member Sean Halsted competes in the biathlon, which combines cross country skiing and target shooting. (VOA/T.Banse)
    U.S. Paralympic National Team member Sean Halsted competes in the biathlon, which combines cross country skiing and target shooting. (VOA/T.Banse)

    "Look at their upper bodies," said Tom Lowe, who skis recreationally. "It's amazing what these people can do. It's incredible."

    One of those incredible people is former infantryman Andy Soule, now a member of the U.S. National Paralympic Team, who lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2005, after the Humvee he was patrolling in was blown up by a hidden roadside bomb.

    His unlikely career path - from soldier to badly wounded warrior to full-time athlete - is made possible in part by training stipends from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    During his recuperation, Soule saw firsthand how military hospitals and the Veterans Administration increasingly emphasize sports as part of the therapy for wounded vets. One day the Texas native met a visiting ski coach from Sun Valley.

    "He said that he thought that I had the ability to be a good skier," Soule says. "He thought I should come along to his development camp up here...I just figured I would give it a try. It actually has worked out real well."

    Coach Marc Mast agrees. He directs a non-profit organization called the Wood River Ability Program, which specializes in adaptive sports.

    "Sport has done more for Andy after traumatic injury - losing both his legs above the knee - and not knowing what he was going to do with his life after that," Mast says. "Sport made him a whole person again, more than anyone I have ever seen."

    Not one, but three different non-profits based in Sun Valley seek to replicate Soule's story.  Other ski towns are getting in the act too, including Winter Park, Colorado and Jericho, Vermont.

    In recent years, the respective non-profits have attracted hundreds of wounded veterans to winter and summer sports clinics. Winter features Nordic and alpine skiing and sledge hockey.

    Summer camps offer hand cycling, rafting, fly fishing, and even paragliding. Longtime swim coach Karen Morrison founded the newest Paralympic sport club in Sun Valley, called AquAbility.

    "It's a big movement in Paralympic sports to collaborate with each other and to cross-train and get everybody involved in as many different things as possible," Morrison says. "Swimming and skiing go together real well. Same with running and swimming."

    Amputee athlete Andy Soule propels himself up and down race courses using only arm power and his core. He straps himself into a molded seat that rides on a metal frame over two skinny skis. Turning the so-called "sit ski" involves leaning and skidding.

    "On the sit down side of our sport, it is a sport that can be picked up fairly quickly," Soule says. "Certainly there is a lot of technique to it, but the basics can be picked up quickly by someone who has the determination and has the physical ability to do it."

    There is a "back to the future" element to this. During World War II, the U.S. Navy took over Sun Valley Lodge and converted it into a convalescent center for injured combat veterans. The resort reopened to the public in 1946.

    In one more historic parallel, America’s biggest rival in Paralympic Nordic competition is its old Cold War foe, Russia.

    In March, Soule and several other disabled U.S. skiers and biathlon competitors will head to Sochi, Russia, for a test event taking place at the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games venue.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures