Para Alpine Athletic Update
Submitted by AOA Para Chair, Gwen Binsfeld
Ontario continues to be a leader Para alpine racing with more athletes progressing to compete at the Paralympics.
At one time, Para alpine racers (athletes with a physical disability) trained together each weekend as an independent team, with racers of all ages and stages coming together at various locations throughout Ontario. This required a tremendous amount of travel time for all racers to leave their local ski hills, to find training environments that facilitated development. For ski families with racing siblings, this presented huge challenges, and often the skier with a physical disability missed out.
Throughout the past decade we have worked towards changing this so that children with disabilities who can ski independently are able to join able bodied teams with their peers as their skiing develops to facilitate inclusion. Currently there are skiers with a variety of disabilities skiing U14, U16 and Masters, and it is hoped that we will be able to get some U12s in the future, as parents become more comfortable with their kids with disabilities, racing. Strange as it seems, the race course is often the safest place for these kids, as it is a controlled environment. This is especially true for the visually impaired. This year we have skiers who are several amputees fully integrated, as well as some with CP and visual impairments.
Sit skiers typically are not able to integrate until they are older and are generally most comfortable with Master’s teams.
Skiers with physical challenges dream of getting to the Olympics on the Para side and they want to ski with their peers at their local clubs. They too, can be skiers for life, and it is our responsibility to provide the opportunities for them to advance.
Resorts and coaches are generally fairly apprehensive but soon find that the integration is smoother than they anticipated as there are resources and support available. If you have skiers with disabilities at your resort make the effort to include them. A Para coach will come out and work with your Para athletes, and help train your coaches. Coaches can take the FREE coaching module for Para, available online.
Para athletes will rarely go to the podium on their able bodied teams, but they can become competitive nationally or internationally when racing Para as a result of the integrated training. Athletes can race in both systems, as well as on school teams.
For more information please stay tuned to the Para section of the AOA website or contact gwen@aoprt.