With the International Paralympic Committee’s World Cup finals for alpine skiing headed to Panorama in just a few weeks, students in Invermere schools got an intro to the world of disabled skiing February 20, when most of the members of the Canadian Para-Alpine ski team visited J.A. Laird Elementary and David Thompson Secondary School.
During the competition about 100 school children will be bussed up to watch the races each day, and the visits offered students a chance to meet Canada’s athletes in advance and also learn a bit about the three categories of para-alpine skiing: sitting, standing and visually impaired.
The team includes some East Kootenay talent, including Team Panorama’s Alexandra Stanker and Kimberley’s Josh Dueck.
“Any opportunity to come into the schools and talk to them a little bit about some of the challenges we face and how we’ve overcome them, it’s such a great opportunity,” Dueck said. “And it’s pretty unique to have everybody here from the Canadian Para-Alpine ski team sharing their stories. It’s been a great experience I think for us, and certainly for the kids.”
“It’s phenomenal, the energy was great in the crowd,” added Stanker. “And looking around I saw a couple kids that I recognized from skiing. It’s just great to see people interested and excited about the upcoming world cup finals.”
Over the course of the sessions the athletes shared stories, took questions and talked about skiing and living with their disabilities.
“I hope they learn a little bit about the sport, and also how they can overcome whatever challenges that they may face in their life,” said Dueck, a sit-skier who broke his back when he overshot a jump while coaching freestyle skiing. He’s since gone on to become the first person to do a back flip in a sit-ski.
In five years with the team, the world cup finals at Panorama will be his first chance to compete on Kootenay soil.
“I’ve never really had a chance to compete in B.C. — I don’t even think I’ve had a chance to compete at a world cup in Canada,” he said.
“This is really exciting. I’m hoping a lot of friends and family from the valley come up and support it.”
Stanker, a standing skier who spends her weekends in the valley, also says she’s excited to share her sport with her “ski family.”
“My coaches will be there, my friends, my parents live in Calgary so it’s just a short drive for everyone to come out and watch,” she said.