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Paralympic Medalist Returns to Roots at Winter Sports Clinic

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SNOWMASS, Colo., April 4, 2006 – When Chris Devlin-Young reluctantly agreed to participate in the first National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, he was mad at the world about losing use of his legs.

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Chris Devlin-Young, who was introduced to skiing through the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and is now a world champion skier, is introducing other disabled veterans to ski racing. Photo by Donna Miles

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Twenty years later, he's back at the clinic with four Paralympic medals under his belt and running the clinic's first racing series.

The Coast Guard veteran had never been on skis and had little interest in trying out the sport after becoming a paraplegic during a 1982 C-130 aircraft crash. "After I got hurt, I spent the first two years being tremendously angry and felt like half a man," he said.

But at his recreation therapist's prodding, Devlin-Young attended the first Winter Sports Clinic in 1985, with life-changing results. "I was hooked on my first turn," he said of his first experience on a sit-ski. "It gave me adrenaline and control. It gave me my life back."

Devlin-Young dove headfirst into the race circuit, gaining national then international attention as he competed in the downhill, super giant slalom, giant slalom, and slalom categories. The three-time Paralympian has won four medals -- two gold and two silver -- and was the first U.S. athlete to win gold medals in two disability categories.

He won his most recent medal, a silver, in the men's Paralympic slalom competition in Torino, Italy. But Devlin-Young said the biggest thrill at Torino was being selected the U.S. team's flag bearer at the opening ceremonies. "That was amazing," he said. "I really believe in my country, so that was an amazing honor for me."

At 44, Devlin-Young said he has no plans to curtail his racing career and wants other disabled veterans to get a taste of the racing experience. It's not necessarily about winning, he said, but more about becoming the best, safest and most confident skier as quickly as possible.

At this year's Winter Sports Clinic, Devlin-Young will help run the first race training and development program. He will join U.S. Olympic coaches to teach clinic participants racing skills and philosophy, as well as identify veterans with Paralympic potential. "Skiing gave me my life back, and now it's time for me to be able to help do that for other veterans," he said.

Skiing and participating in the Winter Sports Clinic, offers disabled veterans the opportunity to discover or rediscover joy in their lives, he said. "When you're skiing, you're in charge. It lifts people up. And that freedom of being able to be 100 percent in control becomes life-changing."

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