BIG SKY, Mont. — Lindsay Ball of Benton became the Women’s Adaptive Alpine national champion in the visually-impaired category in giant slalom last week, as well as the junior (ages 18 and under) national champion in downhill and super G.
Ball, 18, also won a bronze medal in the slalom among all visually-impaired women. Teammate Alex Tomaszewski of Wells took gold among junior men in the downhill and slalom, while also winning silver medals among juniors in the giant slalom and super G.
Both Ball and Tomaszewski, 16, started skiing and continue to train with Maine Handicapped Skiing.
“It is an honor to be a national champion. Especially because I have looked up to the visually-impaired skiers at that level and now, in a way, I am like them. All of the hard work and time that my guide and I have put in for the last 18 months has paid off. We have surpassed the goal of just finishing races and getting experience. Winning is amazing,” Ball said..
Ball, Tomaszewski and another racer representing MHS, Griffin LaMarre of Haverhill, Mass., traveled to Montana to compete in the 2010 Adaptive Alpine National Championships with MHS staff member and head race coach, Diane Barras. They joined former MHS participants Carl Burnett and Luba Lowery competing at the national level, and all three have realistic aspirations to compete internationally for the U.S. Paralympic team like Lowery and Burnett did in Vancouver last month.
“This past week at Big Sky was extremely successful for the MHS athletes. Seeing all of them ski as well as they did against the national competition was exciting and a great reward for all of the hard work they put in over the past season. I am so proud of them and I can’t wait to share their success with everyone back home,” Barras said.
In adaptive events such as the national championships, racers are classified by gender as well as in to standing, sitting (for athletes with disabilities that prevent them from bearing weight on their legs) and visually-impaired divisions. Within those six classifications, skiers of all ages compete together and racers under the age 18 compete as juniors, as well as being ranked among the adults whom compete.
Ball has been visually-impaired her whole life and Tomaszewski was born without a lower leg. Both began skiing with MHS when they were young and have been competing regionally with the MHS race team for the past several winters. Ball skis behind a sighted guide who calls out directions over a speaker system, and Tomaszewski uses a specialized prosthetic leg designed specifically for skiing.
Maine Handicapped Skiing, a non-profit organization, was founded in 1982 to provide free adaptive recreation opportunities for children and adults with physical disabilities. The organization currently serves more than 300 participants statewide through year-round programs that include Alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, golf, canoeing, kayaking, and cycling.
The MHS Alpine Racing program was started several years ago to give participants, families and volunteers an opportunity to enhance their experiences and refine their skills through competition, travel, and year-round training and nutrition. MHS racers compete at the national level, and several former MHS athletes have gone on to race with the U.S. Paralympic team.
Those seeking more information about the Alpine race team and all other MHS programs, may visit their Web site www.skimhs.org or call 800-639-7770.