AVSC’s Thomas Walsh overcomes ski racing odds
Once a promising USSA and FIS alpine athlete, Thomas Walsh has been able to rekindle his love for skiing on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup circuit.
Unlike many of his teammates, he began competitively skiing at a young age in Vail.
With dreams of pursing ski racing at an elite level, Walsh was on track to attend Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont.
Unfortunately, before he could attend, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that developed in his pelvis and lungs.
After enduring a year of intense chemotherapy, radiation and pelvic resection treatments, he was declared NED (no evidence of disease).
The road to recovery wasn’t an easy one, struggling mentally and cognitively, but mostly physically due to impairments with his hip and leg.
“I had to re-learn how to use my memory, how to walk, how to work in school, how to run, and simply how to function as a ‘normal’ teenager,” Walsh said.
With all odds against him, Walsh was able to overcome illness, making the journey to Vermont to attend Green Mountain where he later graduated.
“Putting ski racing behind me, I chose to attend Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in pursuit of a performing arts degree for the 2013-2014 academic year,” Walsh said. “Only during my freshman winter did I learn that I qualified as an athlete with a disability.”
After doing research, Walsh discovered AVSC’s Adaptive program, a full-time residency-training program for emerging athletes in the paralympic alpine skiing pipeline.
“Our philosophy at AVSC Adaptive is to not treat any of our athletes like they have a disability,” said Tim Emling, AVSC Adaptive development head coach. “It’s really important for us to find athletes and cultivate the ones that want this more than anything.”
The AVSC Adaptive program, headquartered at Aspen Highlands, is home to the first paralympic adaptive program that has integrated with a USSA club to create a high-level Alpine Skiing Competition Program, with the goal of recruiting, training, developing, and supporting, the best adaptive ski racers in the country.
Currently in his second season with AVSC, Walsh was named to the U.S. Paralympic Alpine National Team in December of 2015.
Walsh, who races in the para-alpine standing sport class, has found success on the World Cup circuit, bringing home gold at the St. Moritz World Cup in January and IPC World Cup Finals in Aspen in March.
“He showed up trying to get his feet wet in ski racing again and brought a ski racer’s mentality to our program, which was fantastic,” Emling said. “He had no excuses, came down the hill and was ready to take on the world, and he has done that so far.”
When it comes to the future generations of winter sports, Walsh hopes that they do not forget to have fun.
“Sure I ski race to be the best and push myself as hard as possible, but above and more important than being successful or winning is the fact that I have fun and love what I do,” Walsh said. “In a time where our sports are becoming more and more demanding, expensive and stressful. I think we need this more than ever.”
FIS World Cup — Snowboard Slopestyle
The final FIS World Cup slopestyle event took place March 20 in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic.
AVSC’s Chris Corning came away with second place and finished strong, taking the overall World Cup slopestyle title. “Chris has been working hard for the past few years for this. He has integrity and commitment both on and off snow,” Nichole Mason, AVSC Team Two snowboard coach. “The future for him is bright, and I’m proud of all he has done. It’s an honor to see him succeed.”
Aspen Big Air Invitational
The 16th annual Kick Aspen Big Air Invitational took place March 18 at Aspen Mountain. Under the illuminated sky, 40 athletes threw down impressive runs.
This unique event showcased several AVSC athletes, alumni and coaches who uncharacteristically competed in the very same field.
U.S. Freeskiing athlete and AVSC alumni Alex Ferreira hit the podium with a second-place finish, while Torin Yater-Wallace brought home gold.
AVSC snowboard coach Wylie Adams finished fifth in the competition.
National Championships — Moguls
Last weekend Colby Lee competed in Steamboat Springs at the U.S. Championships.
The course was on VooDoo with 74 men and 65 women competing.
New snow and sun made the course fast and challenging.
Lee placed 33rd in moguls and 22nd in duals — his best finish at U.S. Nationals.
This result will be combined with 2016-17 selection events in December to determine the NorAm team, and U.S. World Cup starts for 2016-2017.
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