Local teen hopes to hit slopes of the 2014 Paralympics
By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Aug. 16, 2012
Most 16-year-old boys are looking forward to getting their license or starting their first job, with many dreaming about their future away from home in a few short years. One Enfield teenager has a different dream, and his hard work, dedication and perseverance may help his dream become a reality.
Andrew Haraghey is attempting to ski with the United States Adaptive Ski Team in the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Haraghey, a junior at Enrico Fermi High School, has spastic diplegia, also known as Little’s Disease, a form of cerebral palsy that mainly affects his lower extremities.
Haraghey’s battle with cerebral palsy began when he was just 6 months old. His mother, Sheryl Haraghey, went to check on him after a nap and realized something was wrong; he was very weak, he could not open his eyes or even cry. After he was diagnosed, his parents were concerned about what the future would have in store for him, what kind of life would he live, and if he would be able to walk.
Their concerns were answered when Andrew was 2; he began to regain feeling in his arms and hands, and while his legs were still stiff, he eventually taught himself to walk, albeit at a slower pace than his peers. When he reached the age of 7, Andrew began skiing with his mother and younger brother, Ryan. He could not ski at first; he had to hold onto his mothers’ pole for support while his brother rode next to them. After three years of skiing like this and many adaptive ski lessons, Andrew was able to make it down the mountain slopes without any assistance.
“It was euphoric the first time I saw him make it down the slope on his own,” Sheryl said. “We used to wait for him and I never imagined he would be waiting for us. Now he has no limitations on the ski slope. He has become an incredible athlete.”
Andrew was not serious about the sport or racing until he was approached by someone from AbilityPLUS at Mount Snow in Vermont. In only his second season of competitive racing, Andrew finished with five gold medals in seven races as a member of the AbilityPLUS Adaptive Alpine Race Team. His performances in slalom and giant slalom in the 2011-2012 season have led him to be called an "emerging athlete" by Mau Thompson, the 2011 U.S Skiing Association’s Adaptive Coach of the Year.
“I enjoy the free feeling when I ski; it’s like I’m an able bodied athlete,” Andrew said. “It feels really good to have accomplished so much already but it only pushes me more to try harder. I know that there is a lot of work left to do to reach my goal.”
Andrew continues to train in the off-season with intense therapy and workout sessions to prepare his body for the upcoming ski season. In order to compete in the 2014 Paralympics, Andrew has to complete races in a certain time to secure a spot on the squad.
“I need to continue putting in hard work and focusing on what I have to do to make the team,” Andrew said. “The community has been really supportive and helped me a lot with donating to make this happen. I want to make the team not only for myself, but for them as well.”
For more information about Andrew Haraghey's dream to make the U.S Paralympic Team, visit his website at www.andrewraces.com.