Paralympic alpine skiing is all about sheer determination, as well as mind over matter. There are two aspects within this sport that must be dealt with that we humans, who are blessed with sound bodies will find to be mind boggling. Those are the BODY and second the SKILL.
First, the BODY
Consider for a moment what it must be like to have one or no legs, or you have legs that are paralyzed. I took up alpine skiing when I was in my late fifties. I was in excellent condition. At the end of a day on Whistler or Blackcomb mountains I was a wreck. Even my brain was tired. My back hurt, my legs were as if made of lead. I had a bump on the side of my face from a fall. On my last run to the bottom of the mountain I must have stopped ten times in less than a kilometer to allow my aching legs to rest so that I could get to the bottom.
The next morning I could hardly get out of bed. My entire body cried out "enough is enough." It took me the better part of the week and a big hand-full of Tylenol to make it through.
As I said, I was in good physical condition at that time.
Now imagine what it must be like to be an athlete participating in Paralympic alpine skiing events. Some ski on one leg. Some ski with visual impairment. Paralympic events accommodate those athletes with other physical disabilities such as spinal injuries, amputation, cerebral palsy.
Some skiers with physical disabilities will use specialized equipment adapted to the individual as well as special single skies, a sort of sled called a sit-ski or other orthopedic aid to enable them to compete. Visually impaired skiers may use a sighted guide who will use voice signals to lead the skier through the course. Standing skiers may use a type of crutch with a small ski attached to maintain their balance. Those who sit on the Mono Ski will use shortened versions of the crutch pole.
Paralympic Alpine Skiing Infographic Explanation - Image Courtesy of Allianz.com
Second, The SKILL
Amazingly, the skiers will reach 100 km per hour as they race down the slopes. The four events are Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and Downhill. These events are open to both ladies and gents.
The slalom uses the shortest course with quick turns. The way it works is that in the morning each raced makes a run to the bottom. Then in the afternoon the course is changed and the skiers run that course. After the runs are completed the times are added together and the fastest time determines the winner.
The super-g or giant slalom is made up of the slalom and the downhill. It features a long course with lots of speed. The skiers make only one run down to the bottom with the fastest time declared the winner.
The giant slalom is basically the same as the slalom. The course is arranged with wider and smoother turns. As with the slalom race, there are two runs on different courses on the same day and the fastest time decides the winner.
This is a very demanding event. It consists of one downhill race followed by two slalom runs down the short course. When the times are added together the fastest time is declared the winner of the event.
The downhill race takes place on the longest course and maximum speeds are achieved by the racers. Every athlete must make one run down the hill with the fastest time determining the winner of the event.
Skiers from more than 40 countries are expected to enter the Paralympic alpine skiing races being held at Whistler during the 2010 Paralympics games to be held shortly after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Be sure to make every attempt to attend.
Joe and Irma Mac Millan have enjoyed the Whistler Mountain and valley area of British Columbia for many years. They have camped, hiked and skied the mountains and fished and kayaked the rivers and lakes. Their website Whistler-outdoors.com is a must for anyone considering a trip to Whistler.