Passion for Skiing – Making Tracks to Paralympics Dream
by Joshua Sundquist
Eleven years ago when I was first learning how to ski, my instructor Mark Andrews told me “the slope always looks steeper from the bottom of the mountain.” I was ten years old and I’d only been an amputee for about six months. My head was still bald from chemotherapy, but I really wanted to learn to ski. It was one of the few sports I could still do now that my leg had been amputated.
Mark skied with me three times that winter and by the last session he took me down Diamond Jim, one of Massanutten’s expert trails. It turned out he was right about the slope looking steeper from the bottom—I skied down it without a problem.
At the end of the season I raced for the first time in the Massanutten Adaptive Ski School’s Independence Cup. I loved it. I loved going fast, I loved the competition, I loved everything about it. I knew that there was something out there called the Paralympics where the very best disabled skiers in the world come together to compete every four years, but I was just a beginning skier who was trying to finish his chemotherapy treatments. The climb to the top of disabled skiing looked too steep for me to try.
But I did finish the chemotherapy treatments, and my hair grew back and my energy returned. I kept going to Massanutten to ski with my friends during elementary and middle school. And in my junior year of high school, I decided it was finally time to try disabled ski racing.
I loved it, and immediately I set my sights on the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino, Italy. I spent the next six years training with the Winter Park Disabled Ski Team in Winter Park, Colorado. For much of the time I didn’t think I would make the team. When I felt this way, I made my goal not getting to the Paralympics, but being able to look back and say I gave it my best shot.
I did give it my best shot, and in February I was named to the 2006 United States Paralympic Team. I traveled to Torino, Italy where I raced in front of 4,000 screaming fans—including my parents— against the very best disabled skiers in the world. I didn’t win a medal or anything, but to me the victory was just being a part of the team.
And that’s what adaptive sports are all about—being outside, being a part of an adventure, trying something new. You look up at a slope and say, “that looks pretty steep, but I am going to try it anyway.”
I want to say thank you to Mark Andrews, his staff and all the supporters of Therapeutic Adventures, Inc. for giving me the chance to try skiing. If it hadn’t been for you guys, not only would I have never become a Paralympian, I would’ve never found the sport that has been my passion for the last ten years. So thanks for all you do.