By Sarah Tuff Dunn NASTAR has changed the way we think about racing. And Disabled Sports USA has changed the way we think about disabilities. So when the two forces joined up last winter, we were pretty sure good things were going to happen.
And indeed they have, highlighted by 10 athletes who attended NASTAR National Championships at Steamboat Resort thanks to scholarships provided by Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA). See the slideshow here: http://www.nastar.com/photos/dsusa-adaptive-racers
The Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS) program, meanwhile, provided camps for the athletes to prepare for the races.
NASTAR and DUSA have opened a world of new opportunities for potential Paralympians and recreational racers alike, says Kevin Jardine of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine National Team, who worked with NASTAR and DSUSA to develop new adaptive categories.
“We often find athletes training with high school programs — able-bodied programs — without much knowledge of teams or organizations,” he says. “This is a way for them to compete on their home mountain and compare themselves to our pacesetters to see how they can stack up against the best in the country.”
For next season, Jardine aims to have even more athletes register through the NASTAR system in order to collect and track data critical for program development.
Expanding the program is on the agenda for DSUSA, too. “The partnership with NASTAR was instrumental in getting more adaptive athletes involved in racing,” says Kyleen Davis, DSUSA Program Manager. “The addition of adaptive disciplines within the scoring structure has provided a more competitive landscape for adaptive racers to compare themselves to, and compete against their peers.”
Davis adds that the collaboration has also made competition opportunities for adaptive racers more robust, as they can enter events through the Diana Golden Race Development Program or just head to any of the 115 resorts that offer NASTAR courses.
Some of these season’s highlights, reports Davis, were providing 10 athletes with scholarships to attend NASTAR Nationals at Steamboat, an uptick from four scholarships last season.
Long-term, the joint efforts of NASTAR and DSUSA are encouraging more adaptive skiers and snowboarders to become racers, and to give them a sense of what to expect on a national and international level as they advance, says Davis. “For those already involved in the sport,” she says, “it provides them with even more opportunities and venues to develop their skills and compete.”
The benefits go beyond results, however. “Being able to compete at a regional and national level on the slopes gives these adaptive athletes not only a physical outlet, but it also helps increase confidence through the setting and meeting of goals,” says Davis, “and pushes the athletes to better themselves through competition with their peers.”
For more exclusive snowsport stories, visit the Premium section of SkiRacing.com: http://www.skiracing.com/premium