Wells Fargo Ski Cup showcases paralympic athletes this weekend at Winter Park
Serving more than 3,000 amateur and professional athletes a year, Colorado's National Sports Center for the Disabled has been working with people with disabilities since 1970. Starting as a place for children with amputations to take ski lessons, the NSCD has grown into a training facility for some of the world's top Paralympic athletes. And this weekend, Winter Park host the 39th annual Wells Fargo Ski Cup, the organization's signature fundraiser and a showcase for these winter sports experts.
"The Wells Fargo Ski Cup is the only Pro-Am race that have been around for 39 years. We have recreation participants, which are the ones who participate in lessons from us, but we also have our competition center athletes who are elite athletes with a disability," says Becky Zimmermann, president and CEO of the NSCD.
"Most of the athletes are in this program because their goal is to go to the Paralympics -- but there are others who just want to be challenged. This year we have thirty athletes that have trained with the NSCD who will be at Sochi, and it's not just U.S. athletes -- there are athletes from other countries who train with us as well. We're one of a few facilities -- there's definitely not a lot of programs like ours out there."
Though the Wells Fargo Ski Cup is not a qualifier for the Paralympics, it is a great chance to see these athletes in action before they head to Sochi and hit the same tracks that Olympic athletes have conquered.
"The Paralympics are very similar to the Olympics in that they are usually racing on the exact same courses and venues that the able-bodied athletes did two weeks earlier. So there is still the minimum age requirement depending on the sport, but you'll find often that Paralympians may be older than what you would see in the traditional Olympics," says Zimmerman.
"There are a few modifications, but for the most part, they are the same courses that the traditional Olympics use. There's the athletes who ski in a sit-ski and they may be paralyzed below the waist or there or other reasons why they can't stand -- but they will hit over seventy miles an hour going down the downhill course."