Local skier to compete in Sochi Paralympics

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Columbia - posted Thu., Feb. 13, 2014
Pat Parnell competes at the Copper Mountain World Cup. Photo courtesy of Joe Kusumoto. - Contributed Photo

Pat Parnell spoke recently from Colorado between training sessions. The Columbia, Conn., native had just found out that he’d been nominated to the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team that will compete at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“When I found out I was so excited, I didn’t even know what to think,” said the 20-year-old Parnell. Parnell attended the Horace W. Porter School in Columbia, and graduated from Lyman Memorial High School. He has been an amputee since he was an infant, when a congenital condition resulting in an underdeveloped femur necessitated an above-the knee amputation. “So I’ve dealt with a prosthesis for pretty much my whole life,” said Parnell. “I don’t remember anything different.”

Always an active kid, Parnell was competing in a mountain bike race with his father in Vermont when he spotted a sign for a disabled ski program at Mount Snow. “I asked my dad if we could go back there that winter,” said Parnell. At first involved primarily with recreational skiing, Parnell learned of an entry-level competitive race at the age of 13. “I got second place,” he said. “So I was pretty happy. I hadn’t really expected that.”

By the age of 14, Parnell was racing against disabled skiers who had been competing internationally for years. And this year, he will be among a group of just 26 athletes and four guides who be part of the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team that will compete at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

According to Parnell, the Paralympic Winter Games are open to any athlete with a physical disability. According to the organization’s website, “The Paralympic Games are the pinnacle of the career of Paralympic athletes and motivate others to participate or engage in Paralympic events. The Paralympics take place every two years alternating between summer and winter Games.”

This year’s alpine skiing team “boasts seven athletes who have won 22 Paralympic alpine skiing medals over the past three Games,” according to a press release. “All five athletes who medaled at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games will be back to defend their podium positions. Those athletes are: Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash.), Alana Nichols (Farmington, N.M.), Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass.), Danelle Umstead (Park City, Utah) and Stephani Victor (Park City, Utah).”

Chris Devlin-Young (Bethlehem, N.H.) has the most winter Games experience, with Sochi marking his fifth Games after competing in Vancouver, Torino, Salt Lake City and Lillehammer. Allison Jones, a two-sport athlete in cycling and skiing, has competed in every winter and summer Games since 2002, with Sochi marking her seventh Paralympic Games.

As a newcomer to the team, Parnell is excited for the opportunity to compete. He will compete in the slalom in Sochi, though he normally participates in all five downhill events. Parnell said he skis regularly from November through April, and during the off season works a regular job and works out regularly to help stay in shape. Between now and the Sochi games, “I’ll just keep on training until the day we leave,” said Parnell.

Competition for alpine skiing will take place March 8 to 16, with March 12 scheduled as an off-day. Athletes will compete in five disciplines: downhill, super-G, super combined, slalom and giant slalom. A list of events entered by each athlete will be available in late February.

The USOC and NBC Olympics have partnered to provide coverage to the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. NBC and NBC Sports Network will combine to air 50 hours of television, starting on March 7 with the Opening Ceremony. It will be followed by daily coverage of all five Paralympic sports in the Sochi program, before the Games' Closing Ceremony is broadcast on March 16. In addition, TeamUSA.org will live stream all events from the Paralympic Winter Games. 

Parnell said his family will not be able to travel to Sochi to watch him compete. “The tickets are way too expensive,” he said. But they will be watching from their home in Columbia. To watch Parnell compete, go to TeamUSA.org between March 7 and 16 and look for the slalom competition live stream.

2014 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team nominees: Women: Lindsay Ball (Benton, Maine); Stephanie Jallen (Harding, Pa.); Allison Jones (Colorado Springs, Colo.); Staci Mannella (Randolph, N.J.); Alana Nichols (Farmington, N.M.); Melanie Schwartz (Aspen, Colo.); Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Mass.); Danelle Umstead (Park City, Utah); Stephani Victor (Park City, Utah).Men: Jasmin Bambur (Granby, Colo.); Mark Bathum (Seattle, Wash.); Heath Calhoun (Bristol, Tenn.); Tyler Carter (Topton, Pa.); Chris Devlin-Young (Bethlehem, N.H.); Ralph Green (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Gerald Hayden (Winter Park, Colo.); Joel Hunt (Kokomo, Ind.); Ian Jansing (Granby, Colo.); Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska); Jon Lujan (Littleton, Colo.); Stephen Lawler (Burlington, Va.); Scott Meyer (Frisco, Colo.); Pat Parnell (Columbia, Conn.); Jamie Stanton (Oakland Township, Mich.); Joe Tompkins (Juneau, Alaska); Tyler Walker (Franconia, N.H.).

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