Winter Games: Chair part of the challenge for skier

Arly Velasquez, the sole representative of Mexico at the Winter Games, competes in his first...
Arly Velasquez, the sole representative of Mexico at the Winter Games, competes in his first international adaptive skiing race today. Photo by Felicity Wolfe.
There are no skifields in Mexico but the country's sole representative at the Winter Games has overcome greater challenges to participate in the alpine sports he loves.

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Arly Velasquez broke his back in a downhill mountain biking accident eight years ago.

He was 13 at the time but his youth, and the encouragement of his mother, helped him remain positive and determined to excel as an athlete.

"You don't feel your limits [at that age] . . . and I always wanted a vehicle.

"I am now in my vehicle," he said.

After trying several wheelchair sports, including basketball, tennis, javelin and shot put, Velasquez (21) discovered mono-skiing, which took him back to the mountains.

"To return to the mountains and the sensations . . .

"I love mountain sports," he said.

Mono-skiing is an adaptive sport for paraplegic skiers who are seated on a single ski "with kind of crutches" as poles, using their hips to execute turns "just like standing skiers".

Having the opportunity to train and compete with other adaptive skiers at the Winter Games has given Velasquez even greater determination to do well.

The Games are part of a fulfillment of a childhood dream to "be the best" at a sport.

Although he is yet to race in his first international event, a wildcard selection has guaranteed he will represent Mexico at the 2010 Winter Paralympics.

"I saw I had the opportunity . . . to be in something big," he said.

"Now I have this opportunity, I am training a lot [to] do my best."

Dedication is required of all top athletes and Velasquez travels to the United States regularly each winter to train at skifields in Utah.

When not on the mountain, he trains in the gym and uses hand cycles to maintain fitness.

While Velasquez is concentrating on the Paralympics, he hopes to encourage other disabled people in Mexico to participate in sport.

"Now that I am here getting this big opportunity, I feel really proud of my life and I have to develop these kinds of sports in Mexico," he said.

"There are a lot of other guys in a bad situation [who need to be] getting on with life."

Sport was also an excellent way for people like himself to get back into life, Velasquez said.

"To sweat, to laugh, to lose, to win - that is life."

Velasquez will compete today in the adaptive grand slalom and in the adaptive slalom on Saturday at Coronet Peak.




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