Paralympian stands tall at Winter X in Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – The most decorated athlete at the Winter X Games on Saturday at Buttermilk may have been a woman who can’t walk.
Sarah Will, a former Vail resident who now calls Hartsel, Colo. home, holds 12 Paralympic gold medals and one silver, making her the most decorated female monoskier in U.S. Ski Team history. She was also the first monoskier inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
She’s announcing the mono skiercross event at Winter X, the finals of which take place Sunday, but Saturday she was going mobile.
“I haven’t stood up in years,” said a grinning Will, standing at the controls of the latest model of Action Trackchair, an all-terrain wheelchair. The new model will lift the occupant into a standing position, and Will was maneuvering around on the hard-packed snow at the base of Buttermilk with relative ease.
Will, who lost the use of her legs in a ski accident at Aspen Highlands in 1988, said she can stand with a walker or leg braces, but those devices require use of her arms, as well, for balance – a hinderance to true mobility.
Will competed in monoskiercross early on in the X Games’ tenure at Buttermilk, when a women’s demonstration event was offered. The following year, she was the only woman willing to compete and went head to head with the men. Will said she finished fourth in a field of 16 racers.
On Saturday, though, she was gushing about the ability to look people in the eye as she tested out the Trackchair. And she hugged a friend – a gesture most people take for granted.
“Hugging somebody standing up!” she said.
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