Local teen strives for Paralympics dreams
By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Aug. 18, 2011
Nearly every weekend in the winter, you can find Andrew Haraghey shredding the slopes at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt. A student at Fermi High School, Haraghey is working toward an impressive goal: he dreams of making the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team and competing in the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
Around six months of age, Haraghey became very ill and was diagnosed with viral encephalitis, which led to swelling of the brain that then caused cerebral palsy. He regained the use of his arms and hands but not his legs. Learning to walk took time, and Haraghey first used a walker and later braces.
Because he struggled to keep up with his peers physically, Haraghey’s mother, Sheryl, thought snow skiing might provide her son with a newfound freedom. When he was 7, she took him and his 5-year-old brother, Ryan, to Mount Sunapee in Newbury, N.H.
“Back then we didn’t know about adaptive programs,” Sheryl said, so she skied with Andrew holding onto her pole. Ryan picked up the sport quickly, but his older brother struggled. It took him three years to be able to ski independently.
“I don’t know why he kept going,” Sheryl said. Haraghey is not quite sure either. He said his mother continued to encourage him in the sport, and then his father made a deal with him.
“If he learned, I would learn,” said his dad, Rich Haraghey. Never having skied before, Rich got the opportunity to learn around the time his son turned 10, three years after first trying the sport.
Haraghey has tried other sports, learning to water ski and kayak, and he participates in an annual wheelchair tennis camp. He tried baseball when he was younger, but said his ability level was between leagues for disabled children and those without disabilities.
With skiing, Haraghey said, “I can make my own pace.”
Today, he is 15. Through Mount Sunapee he learned about Mount Snow, where he got involved in the mountain’s AbilityPLUS program. He is not only training to become an elite racer there, but he also helps teach adaptive snow sports to others with disabilities.
Haraghey’s racing career began fairly recently. He started training during the 2009/2010 season, and in December 2010, he received a scholarship to attend the National Race Festival at the Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colo. It was his first time on west coast slopes.
“I didn’t care for the powder,” Haraghey said of the experience, which, other than the deep snow, was a highlight in his skiing career.
He began competing last season, racing in seven contests and medaling in five. He competes in slalom and giant slalom events, but this year he is looking to try super-G and downhill.
“I want to try and see what I enjoy the most,” he said.
Though chosen as an Emerging Athlete by 2011 USSA Adaptive Coach of the Year Mau Thompson, Haraghey has his work cut out for him. His goals for this season are to get in more practice time and compete in more races. He currently competes in the Diana Golden races series, or level one racing. By the end of the 2011/2012 season, he hopes to have advanced to the next level.
Sheryl said after one year of competitive racing, the whole family is better prepared to continue with training. They know what races to look for, which camps to send him to, and Haraghey will also join Mount Snow’s race team.
Besides practice time, Haraghey’s other major need is sponsors. To compete at the elite level, he needs better equipment as well as sponsors to help cover race entry fees, camp fees and travel costs. To raise money for his needs, the Haraghey family is holding several fundraisers, including one at Brown’s Harvest in Windsor on Oct. 22 and another at Outback Steakhouse in Enfield on Nov. 12. More information about his journey and fundraising needs can be found at www.andrewraces.com.