SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The United States Paralympic Alpine Skiing team announced its roster for the upcoming 2022 Paralympic Games — including one Sun Valley native.
Jesse Keefe, 17, was born without an ankle bone in his right leg and had his limb amputated below the knee at eleven months old. After receiving a prosthetic limb, Keefe began skiing at 2 years old. He got involved in para-skiing later in life, and over these last several years has made it his goal to reach the Paralympics.
“I’m at a loss for words for it," said Keefe. "It is definitely something I've been working for half of my life, as I said before. I couldn’t be happier, it’s just really great to see how far I’ve come.”
Keefe is the youngest member of the team but he has plenty of teammates to support him as he gets ready for his first Paralympic Games.
One of those teammates is Andrew Kurka, who has participated in numerous tournaments and even placed Gold and Silver at the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang.
“Making sure that he feels welcome when he’s on the team, and he’s definitely fitting in really well," said Kurka. "With his overall personality, his overall attitude, and his skill coming into the team definitely is going to lead him towards a very successful future in para-alpine skiing.”
The coaching staff also plays a vital role in getting athletes prepared.
“All of those pieces, we all contribute to that in different ways," said Tony McAllister, coach for the US Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team. "Athlete to athlete, coaches and service staff, all operate on that one level together sharing ideas and sharing knowledge and supporting each other.”
As the start date approaches, Keefe is going into the games with an extremely positive and determined mindset.
“Of course, my overall goal is to do my best," said Keefe. "Always go for gold, that’s kind of something I’ve striven for my whole life.”
However, Jesse is also looking at this experience as a learning curve to further his career.
“I'm still 17," said Keefe. "If I can come out of the games with these new things in my head like, 'OK, I know where I’m at now. Now, for the next four years, I can work on this, I can work on this, I can get stronger, I can get faster, and I can improve my skiing in general and just prepare for the next games.”
The 2022 Paralympic Games run from March 4 to March 13.