By Kim Seevers, Program Development and Grants Director
While most people connected with the Adaptive Sports Foundation were performing snow dances or researching cloud seeding to make it snow this winter, ASF was busy in Lake Placid, providing training for a group of Paralympic hopefuls you’ve never seen here on the Windham slopes. With support from the Department of Veterans Affairs Adaptive Sports Grants (VA-ASG) program, ASF has held three para-bobsled and skeleton camps at the Olympic Sliding Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg. The first was held in March 2015 and that inaugural program was followed by two camps this season; one in November ’15 and one in March ‘16.
Why bobsled-skeleton you ask? The VA-ASG program is intended to identify and expose qualified veterans to Paralympic opportunities in new sports. After some research, we identified three sports where ASF could dip a toe in the water: para-bobsled/skeleton, para-Nordic/biathlon and para-canoe/sprint kayak. Since February 2015 ASF has held successful camps in all three sports areas.
Bobsled and skeleton were the most intriguing as the two sports are very new to the Paralympic scene. Representatives of both are lobbying to be a demonstration sport in 2018 in South Korea and a full sport in Beijing in 2022. We felt we could get in on the ground floor to help identify athletes and give them a taste for sliding. As we soon found out though, it would take some serious convincing of the track officials in Lake Placid who, understandably, were leery of having athletes with disabilities sliding their track. We did not have any established contacts or relationships with anyone in the sports and had to do a lot of research and make a lot of phone calls/emails to find the right people to get things done.
ASF has now completed three successful bobsled-skeleton camps that have served 32 veterans. Our program has made historic inroads with para sliding on the Lake Placid track as our athletes were the first with disabilities to slide there. Three alums have competed in World Cup competition in North America and Europe and are now members of Team USA. One athlete is the first arm amputee to slide skeleton in a World Cup competition. Two others were invited to compete but were unable to make the commitment this season and hope to be racing in 2016-2017. We believe we are presently the only adaptive sports program in the United States offering para-bobsled and skeleton as a sport. ASF became a USA Bobsled/Skeleton Federation club in 2016.
Keep an eye out on ASF social media for updates on the athletes in this exciting program as para-bobsled and skeleton get closer to inclusion in the 2018 Paralympic Games.
Check out this video for a look at the first World Championships held in Park City in March. Several athletes who have trained with ASF are highlighted here.