Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Paralympics - Watch for Tyler Walker

I recently caught a glimpse of the Winter X Games on TV. The event being shown involved downhill skiing - backwards - and a big jump with a lot of aerial acrobatics including the crossing of skis while upside down - then a backwards landing and continuation of skiing downhill - did I say backwards? - to the finish. The whole thing put the Winter Olympics to shame. Now I understand why the Olympics are adding events like snowboarding with its death defying half pipe event. There is a new revolution going on fueled by a youth culture of daredevil antics. Not being a downhill skier, it took me awhile to catch on.

And I wondered, is there an adaptive version of this?

The answer is yes, although I don't think the backwards event above is happening yet on adaptive skis. At the recent Winter X-Games 14 in Aspen, Colorado, a New Hampshire native, Tyler Walker, took the gold medal in Monoskier-X. This is a competitive race of four individuals over a downhill course fraught with curves and jumps. These cross races are popular in snowboarding and downhill skiing now and are recent additions to the Winter Olympics (though not the Paralympics -yet). It's not just about speed, its about skill and ability to stay upright and in motion in relation to three other competitors flying down the mountain.

Tyler Walker, now 23 years old, was born with very little spine. Both legs were amputated at age four. Despite great excuses to never consider becoming an athlete, he began downhill skiing in adaptive programs in high school. Tyler graduated from the University of New Hampshire recently with a dual major in International Studies and Geography. His academic pursuits tie in nicely with his current endeavors as a skier traveling a world circuit. You can watch Monoskier-X and Tyler's gold medal win on video at his website http://tylerwalker.org/. His entertaining blog also provides a glimpse of the life and travels of a champion adaptive athlete.

Tyler also competes in slalom and giant-slalom. He won the World Cup Championship in downhill last August at the World Cup Finals in Whistler, British Columbia. Watch for news of him at the Winter Paralympics next month where he will compete on the same mountain. He is a favorite to win. Check him out on YouTube as a child on home-made adaptive skis and training for Vancouver at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLE0s_GrI7E

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