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Andrew’s Blog

Five Seconds, an essay by Andrew

I stood in the gate ready to go, head down and the course going through my head. I hear the signal for ten seconds. I eye the first few gates and get in my stance, skis out, head up and poles ready to launch me forward. On my right I hear the official, “Racer Ready… 5…4…3…2…1…GO. I was off and on my way down the course. One gate flew by, then the next and another following it shortly. The turns all meshed together culminating into a seamless line…I have been Skiing for nine years now, and I have been racing competitively for three years. Over this time it has become a large part of my life, and I do not know where I would be without it. Over the years it has become very important to me, and has influenced me greatly in the way my life has gone. Without skiing, I would not be the person I am today. It has instilled many great values in me, taught me responsibility and maturity at a younger age than most, and given me many great opportunities.

I learned to ski at the age of seven. At that time, it was a constant struggle, and did not come easy to me. My mother had decided to get back into skiing after several years and thought that it would be a good idea to try and teach me and my brother to ski. The first time we went I knew immediately that it was going to be a struggle. Nothing really came effortlessly to me at that age, and skiing was no exception. I did not have the strength to stand up independently on a pair of skis. This resulted in me relying on holding onto one end of a pole while my mother held the other to support me. She had to put in all the work and essentially just pull me along. It must have taken a lot of dedication and perseverance on her part as well. Seeing me struggle the whole time and then struggling herself just to keep me upright and under control. Eventually I managed to be able to stand up independently, but I still needed the pole to keep myself under control. Without it, I would turn into a rocket only stoppable by colliding with anything that managed to get caught in my path or by falling over. Then when I did fall over, I could not even get myself back up without the aid of my mother.

Skiing remained a struggle for me for the longest time. My brother had picked it up almost instantaneously, while I stayed struggling by mother’s side. This simply frustrated me even more. As a child who was yet to come to terms with his disability, it was difficult to watch my brother succeed so effortlessly while I struggled. Only hindered by fear after a tubing accident a few years later, he excelled and was constantly skiing circles around me. This frustrated me to no end, but I had to keep going. As petty as it sounds, I wasn’t going to give him another thing to do that I couldn’t partake in. I persevered and kept at it.

The process did not only involve my mother. There were also countless weekends spent in lessons, trying to become an independent skier. Whether it was one program or another, it seemed to make no difference. I did not at the time see any improvement and still struggled to find control. They would all try to tell me how doing one thing or the other would help me become an independent skier. They all had different ways of teaching me, and it was hard to differentiate between what truly worked and what didn’t. Instructors came and went like the wind, but my mother was always there, willing to lend her helping hand.

After three years of struggle, and a few times where I felt spent and wanted to give up, something amazing happened. It was an average day, a little later into the season. It wasn’t too busy and we had headed to the slopes early. I had skied in a lesson and in the afternoon, I was heading out with my mother yet again hanging onto the pole. We rode the lift just like any other time, but it would be different. We got off, and headed down to the left trail. We slowly meandered our way down, however about halfway down the hill, I just out of nowhere let go of the pole for some reason. My mother yelled out for me to fall over so that she could come and I could grab hold of the pole again, but I would have none of that. I had managed to stay up, and something just seemed different. I felt stronger, and in control. Before I knew it, I was almost to the bottom, and I skied it in control. Not a rocket straight down, but actually turning and in control. Something had just clicked for me, and I got it. This was a big day and turned skiing around for me. From that point on, the struggling slowly decreased and the reward greatly increased.

It did not take me long to become independent and manage to keep up with my brother. I soon became independent other than picking myself up when I fell, which was often. I soon was skiing with my friends, and had even joined the ski club at elementary school. There were still struggles along the way, and obstacles that I had to overcome, but none of them seemed quite as significant then. I had finally accomplished a major goal, and had gained a little independence. My dedication and hard work had paid off, and I could easily see and feel the results every time I went out skiing. Eventually, I would get even better, and the reward from my perseverance was all the more evident.

Later on, I had been influenced by another program, and had started mentoring other skiers with disabilities, and improving my own abilities at the same time. It was a win, win, and all it did was help me in the end. By this point I had become proficient and independent in my skiing. It was something athletic I could do with my friends and actually keep up. This was big because I had become so used to falling behind that I was not all too sure what the front of the pack looked like. With skiing, I could excel, I could do so much that I just couldn’t off the snow. This was my element, and I was not about to give it up.

Not long after I had been mentoring, the program director in charge of the volunteer program that I had mentored for and then started instructing for, had asked me if I would like to get into ski racing. She had seen the potential in me that I knew was brewing. I just had not known what it would manifest itself into, and this was what illuminated that focus. I went out West for the first time to Breckenridge Colorado, and I experienced the true art of adaptive ski racing. I met so many people who faced the same, if not more daily struggles than I did, and were excelling at something they loved. I saw that being me, and imagined what I could become. I learned some of the basics and by the end of the camp had even been bumped up to the advanced group. That year I managed to collect several medals, and an abundance of confidence. That was the start to my racing career and got me on the road to what I could truly become.

The next year, I ended up continuing, and participating even more. I had even become a member of DSUSA’s alpine E-Team, A team of emerging athletes. I had even managed to sweep all my level 1 races, and compete in both a national and a NORAM series race in that year. I had managed to get that much better in that short of a time frame, and I was not planning on slowing my pace anytime soon.

The following year, this year, I had managed to triple if not quadruple my productivity from last year. I attended many more training camps, to improve my technique and skill. I had found a new coach had seen my potential and was willing to help me unlock it. She worked with me, and helped me unlock part of my true potential. She exponentially increased the level of training I received and the level of growth that I was having in my skiing ability. I became much stronger physically, and the training has led me into the best shape of my life, and me being happier than I have ever been with myself.

This past year has also helped me to grow in my maturity and responsibility. I have had to become responsible with several things that many people do not until they leave the shelter of their parents’ home. Between simply flying all over the country by myself, and taking care of myself, making sure I have what I need and get where I need to. I have had to responsibly manage my money, and see what the real expense of things are. I am setting an example and I am supposed to be an example to younger skiers and athletes who want to get into the sport.
Skiing gives me something that I just cannot get from other sports. It gives me a sense of freedom and accomplishment from competing and excelling in a sport that a lot of able bodied people find difficult or struggle at. The way that skiing just comes easily and fluidly is something that I cannot find in another sport. The way my skis effortlessly glide over the crystalline snow and propel me down the hill. How it allows me to transverse my disability and accomplish what I can’t on my own two feet.

Skiing has given me a goal to strive for beyond something such as getting to a point in a video game, or watching a particular movie. It has allowed me to set forth the ultimate goal for myself or any other athlete with a disability, the Paralympics. I have been working and striving towards the Paralympics, and will continue to work my way there, the only thing that could stop me is my body giving out underneath me. This is something that I will see through to the end, and will accomplish.

…The turns had come together near perfectly and I only had a short remainder of the course to go. The real pitch was coming up and I set my edge hard and rode it out. I left only a trace of where I had been, and kept a constant focus down to the next two gates. I told myself that this would be it, this would be the run. The finish line was in sight, and the terrain was leveling. I dropped into a tuck and cut the last few gates as close as I could without going into them. Then I finally crossed the line, stopping my time and locking in my result. I made my way over to the timing board and saw my times. My hard work had paid off. I had a great result. I managed to shave off just over five seconds and move up three spots in the board. This had been my best run yet, and I was not about to squander it’s significance.