Amy Donaldson: Adaptive athletics gives veteran new opportunities

Published: Monday, Jan. 7 2013 8:10 a.m. MST

What binds the adaptive sport athletes is that whatever they've lost, whatever they've suffered, they don't quit. Their lives were changed by accident, disease and war. But they don't want pity or praise, they just want the chance to rebuild a new life from the ashes of the old.

In fact, he said athletics has shown him that the only limitations in life are the ones we place on ourselves.

"It's not so much the competition I love but learning what you can do with your life," he said. "If you can do this, you can do anything."

He cringes at the idea of being a role model, of being an inspiration.

"I don't want to be an example for anybody," he said after Sunday's 3K race, which went much more smoothly on new skis. "But if somebody can learn from us, from what they can see around here, if we can inspire somebody to be proactive in life, I think this is the right place to be."

Participating in athletics has returned the joy to his life.

In fact, now he almost sees the tough times as his life's greatest blessing.

"Sometimes I feel like this is the best thing that ever happened to me," he said, the smile returning to his face. "Look what I am doing."

And then he waves his hand at the Soldier Hollow course covered with adaptive skiers preparing for an awards ceremony. He shakes his head.

"I'm 43 years old, and I'm competing with these guys who are 23 or 24 years old," he said. "I'm from New York and I'm in Utah. I'm so grateful."

He repeats something he heard during rehab, and it's something he repeats to himself when the task seems impossible.

"If you can't stand up, you can stand out," he said. "The Lord gave me an opportunity to do sports. … Life is what you make out of it."

Sports has taught him many things, but maybe most importantly, he said, "There is so much to do in life. So just find a way to do something."

Email: adonaldson@desnews.com

twitter: adonsports

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