"No Child Left Inside" · Accessibility · Adaptive Adventure · Adaptive Parenting (an adventure itself) · Education · Family life · Through the Power of Sport

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog, February 27, 2018: “Why We Should Watch the Paralympics”

Regardless of whatever Super Bowl team you hoped would win, the commercials took home the biggest trophy as far as the Krill family was concerned.Let’s be clear; Toyota is not paying me to cheer on their choice to NOT feature automobiles, although they could and I would be ok highlighting their awesome commercials surrounding mobility and the tagline, “When we are free to move, anything is possible.” My favorite one featured the “Start Your Impossible” campaign showcasing eight-time Gold medalist Canadian alpine ski racer Lauren Woolstencroft.I cried.

Our daughter will tell you she is going to the Olympics for ski racing when she is big.She is 6.She is also growing up in and around her dad’s world of disability, primarily overcoming challenges daily, so her perspective is different from mine when I was 6.However, when our children watch these ads with me, and I’m crying because the music, the images, the video, of this spunky little girl– who could have been born anywhere to any parents– it’s all just too much for me.Yet, our daughter watches and says, “So, where is her home mountain?” She is un-phased by the miracle that becomes these Paralympic athletes.She is as excited to meet Lauren Woolstencroft as she is to meet Mikaela Shiffrin. This is why we watch the Paralympics.

According to the paralympic.org website, there are 670 athletes participating in Pyeong Chang, South Korea Paralympics, which is up 24% from Sochi in 2014.Another interesting fact is that the number of women participating is also up 44%.Some of our family’s favorite events include: sled hockey, alpine skiing, wheelchair curling, and biathlon.The official mascot is “Bandabi”, an Asiatic black bear, who symbolizes courage and strong will, appropriately representing our Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Paralympian mono skier Andrew Kurka kindly allowed me to ask some questions about this year’s competition, other life goals, and important mentors in his life who coached him through challenging moments.Severely injuring 3 vertebrae in an ATV accident when he was 13, Kurka uses a sit-down ski as part of this Paralympic classification.

When asked what he was looking forward to, Kurka shared, “As far as events go, I’m looking forward to the downhill and the SuperG the most! Even though I’m a consistent athlete at all events, those are by far my favorite. But, personally, what I’m looking for, is the chance to get the first Paralympic medal for my state. That’s a huge honor and to be the first at something is a name in the record book that can never be taken away. A honor that I will always have and I’m truly hoping for.”

On a personal note, I’m always fascinated by people’s turning points in life– whether disabled or not. So, at what point, did he think the Paralympics were a possibility?

“I had a physical therapist named Ann, who took me to the mountain and said, ‘Look you have to try this. You will be awesome! You have to!’ She eventually talked me into it. The moment I skied I loved it. She was totally right. That was the moment when my childhood wrestling dreams came back, and I started to realize what was possible! Not just for myself but for being an example to others. That was when I started pursuing being the best in the world.”

His next goal as far as ski racing goes is the big medal in the Paralympics or an overall globe in this next year.“In my personal life my big goal is a bed and breakfast where I can show people with disabilities the adventures Alaska holds from the perspective of someone who is disabled!”

Lastly, I asked him to share some of the best coaching advice he had every received.“The biggest words that have resounded with me throughout my life were from my wrestling coach Steve Wolf. He has since passed away, but he told me when I was young after I won my first state championship–that there WILL ALWAYS BE SOMEONE BETTER. That meant for me to never stop striving. I was young at the time. And it grew into a dream of being an Olympian. Now I get to pursue that dream as a Paralympian to BE THE BEST, something I know would make him proud.”

Watch the Paralympics March 8-18.You will not wish for those hours of your life back.I promise.You might even be inspired to move differently or more often or with someone new.You might reach out to a friend who is struggling to move– either physically or metaphorically– and you might be able to help them to see what they can’t right now.In the wise words of Toyota, “When we are free to move, anything is possible.”

Heather Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 7 and 6.Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, @heatherkrill1 on Twitter, and, most recently added in the New Year, her Youtube channel “Writing from the Front.”

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