IDAHO — In partnership with the U.S. Paralympics Nordic skiing team, the Challenged Athletes Foundation created a winter sport developmental program for all athletes with physical disabilities.
Their goal is to provide opportunities and development to adaptive athletes starting from their first time Nordic skiing to elite athletes.
“It's not we can accommodate you, but it's we want you here. And that’s the message with this portion of the initiative is we’re coming after you, and we’re coming to find you," said Jennifer Skeesick, CAF-Idaho Regional Director. "We want you to come play with us."
The idea stemmed from the success of their first-ever Nordic skiing and biathlon clinic they held in January.
This was the first time Larry Demirelli participated in the biathlon, something he didn't know was possible for him.
“It's opportunities that I never thought even existed. I have been visually impaired all my life, so I have just gone on with my happy life the way I go about my happy life," said Demirelli. "And I didn’t know the resources that were available to people with different types of disabilities.”
“It was the success of that clinic because it was the largest in terms of Nordic and biathlon, and it was everyone from Idaho," said Skeesick. "It just blew up, and there was so much interest and energy behind it that it was after that clinic that we said this could be a development region. There is raw talent here.”
The U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing team saw Idaho's opportunity for growth and development of the sports, so in partnership, the two created their own program.
“We’re basically turning the development model for paralympic athletes upside down," said Wilson Dippo, Nordic skiing development coach. "So in the past, it has really been up to the athletes to find the organizations, and so we are kind of turning that upside down where we are actually going out and trying to find athletes and introduce them to nordic skiing proactively.”
Dippo and other coaches will host small clinics in different regions of Idaho for all skill levels.
They will have clinics for first-time skiers up to elite athletes wanting to get to the next level.
"We will be teaching some to ski, and some of them we are trying to bring to that next level," said Dippo. "It will be training sessions in the morning, coaching in the middle of the day with video sessions and things like that, and then another afternoon training session."
Although their goal remains the same.
“What we are going to do is break down that gap where people have some despair. It’s a life-altering event, or it’s a child that is born differently than expected, and all of a sudden, we can celebrate in that," said Skeesick. "It’s changing that dynamic and saying it's not you can pick from these three things it's what do you want to do there are so many options.”
They hope to continue breaking down barriers for adaptive athletes to easily find coaches and access equipment wherever they go.
“Every place you go, there is an adaptive skier, that's going to be the win," said Skeesick. "It’s not always that we are pursuing the elite. It’s the entire journey so its entry and tracking people through.”
"There's absolutely no reason to sit on the sidelines, said Demirelli. "Don’t limit yourself. There are clearly limitations and different abilities that people can and cannot do, but get out there."
CAF-Idaho Winter Adaptive Sports Schedule (Subject to Change):
- November 22 Cycling Time Trial Boise, ID
- December 13-15 Nordic Development Team Clinic McCall, ID
- December 19 Climbing Clinic Twin Falls, ID
- January 2 Bogus Challenge Race # 1 Bogus Basin, ID
- January 2-3 Nordic Clinic Twin Falls, ID
- January 8-10 US ParaNordic Team- Race Bozeman/Big Sky, MT
- January 15 Amputee Day Ski- Alpine Sun Valley, ID
- January 16-17 Nordic Clinic Sun Valley, ID
- January 24 Bogus Challenge Race #2 Bogus Basin, ID
- February 6 Boulder Mountain Tour Sun Valley, ID
- February 13-14 Nordic Race McCall/Ponderosa, ID
- February 20 Biathlon with USPN-Race West Yellowstone, MT
- February 20 Bogus Challenge Race #3 Bogus Basin, ID
- February 26 Grant Night/43Inc Nampa, ID
- March 5-7 Western Youth Championships Jackson Hole, WY
- March 12-14 Amputee Ski Camp – Alpine Sun Valley, ID
- March 24-28 Biathlon Para Nationals West Yellowstone, MT
To learn more or to sign up, click here.
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