TeamUSA’s feature article about Tyler’s come-back strategy.
Read “After Sochi Crash, Mono-Skier Tyler Walker Learns To Go Fast Again” by Karen Price.
TeamUSA’s feature article about Tyler’s come-back strategy.
Read “After Sochi Crash, Mono-Skier Tyler Walker Learns To Go Fast Again” by Karen Price.
March 26, 2014
Colorado Springs, CO
The US Olympic Training Center (OTC) is much like a small college campus where Olympic and National Team athletes can live and train year round, often for many years in a row. Instead of classrooms and lecture halls there are workout facilities, gymnasiums, an Olympic size pool, and an indoor shooting range (particular to the OTC in Colorado). There are three OTCs in the US, each with very different training facilities. One in Chula Vista, California where many track and field, BMX, field hockey, and rowing athletes train; another in Lake Placid, New York where many of the bobsled, skeleton, and luge athletes train; and Colorado Springs, Colorado where many wrestling, weightlifting, triathlon, swimming, shooting and alpine skiing athletes train. The OTCs all provide very good food in such a way where it is very easy and encouraged to eat specifically for the needs of your body and your sport. The campuses are worlds unto themselves, providing for every athlete’s basic needs and are really neat places to see if you ever visit any of these cities.
A few days before the Sochi Paralympics officially ended, I flew to the OTC in Colorado Springs to begin physical therapy to repair strained and bruised muscles caused by my downhill crash, as well as monitor the substantial concussion I sustained. The OTC here has an amazing sports medicine facility where you end up spending a lot of time once you have broken yourself in the pursuit of excellence. They have many different methods for fixing you including massage, strength training, hot and cold plunges, muscle zapper machines (it’s a technical term, I swear), ultrasound, as well as MRI, X-Ray, and DXA scan machines. Sports Medicine is always staffed by several highly trained physical therapists and doctors who can fix just about anything.
Part of the process of diagnosing what I damaged in my Sochi crash has included several encounters with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, which are fascinating. It produces a magnetic field around your body that excites hydrogen atoms in your tissues, causing you to produce a radio frequency. The machine can detect how quickly the frequency returns to normal, the rate of which determines the difference between bone, muscle, fat and other tissues, thus giving you an accurate image of your innards. The technology is much like a microwave oven, in fact, causing your body to heat up noticeably.
A few days ago I spent an hour in one of these machines, trying to lay perfectly still while it microwaved my spine, no easy task due to the immense amount of pain in my lower spine. The MRI technician assured me that the microwaving aspect of the machine was safe, but the heat building up in my body did not put me at ease. I endured the pain, the cause of which was determined to be bruising of the first two lumbar vertebrae in my spine. Considering the forces involved in my crash at the Sochi Paralympics I am lucky to have escaped with a bruised spine being the only damage to my skeleton.
Recovering from the concussion has been particularly challenging. Since my crash I have gone through periods of intense dizziness, nausea, and vomiting with overwhelming sensitivity to light and noise. In the first week I could barely withstand being outside my quiet, darkened room for more than ten minutes. Flying home was another challenge. I got to fly first class the whole way, with the beds, good food, big TV screens, and supermodel flight attendants, but I could enjoy very little of it because I was too sore to sleep, would throw up the food, and couldn’t stand looking at the brightness of the monitor. It was also challenging to look outside as trying to focus on near and far objects quickly proved to be very uncomfortable.
I am getting better. I spent the first week here sleeping most of the time, emerging briefly for meals and therapy. Each day the pain and discomfort become a little bit less and it is a bit easier to do everything. Now most of the concussion symptoms have passed, I can sit in my chair and push around easily, and I have been able to do light workouts. I am still quite sore in my back and core, but I expect to fully recover in another few weeks. The staff and facilities at the OTC have been instrumental in the healing process and I am very thankful for all their help.
March 8, 2014
Rhosa Khotor, Russia
Paralympic Downhill Race
Beep! 30 seconds. I push up to the starting gate, trying to find a good place to put my outriggers so that I push through the starting wand with maximum speed. I must breath! My heart-rate is too high. Remember to reach with the outside hand and drive with the uphill hand! I must remember to do that. Beep! 10 seconds. People are yelling behind me. Encouragement. I take a quick and deep breath, planting my riggers in the snow. Nothing but the run. I just need to focus on the run!
Beep! 5 seconds. Breath hard.
Beep! 4 seconds. Breath hard. People are still yelling.
Beep! 3 seconds. Breath hard.
Beep! 2 seconds. Push out! Push, push, push! Yelling fades behind me. I flip my outriggers down when the speed picks up. I need to calm back down for the first turn, to get my body back under control from the adrenaline. Ok, I’m calm. The first turn is easy, just a little bit of edge and look for the exit. I don’t need too much direction, not as much as last run. I’m coming out of the first turn now and I see the next one. I’m going to nail it this time! No sliding, no holding back. I’m carving this one. Ok, release turn one, see the rise line, and start the pressure. I feel the edge engaging. This is going to be a great turn.
I can’t move. Everything is bright. I can hear people moving around me. Have I been sleeping? It must have been a really good sleep. I can hardly move after a really good sleep. I hear a dragging sound underneath me. I am being dragged. Why am I being dragged? Where am I? What was I doing? Nothing. I’ve got nothing. Ok, what do I know? For some reason my head is locked down tighter than anything else. I hear dragging. Dragging side to side. A sled! I must be in a sled. Where are there sleds? Ski areas! Ski areas have sleds. Wait, they have sleds for injured people. Damn. I’m in one of those. Ok, I’m injured, at a ski area. Don’t panic. Where am I, though? Come on, memory! Where am I?! Wait, do I hear a helicopter? That’s cool. I like helicopters. I’ve always wanted to ride in one. Ooh! The people are picking me up and sliding me into the helicopter! That’s awesome! Helicopter ride!
Russia! I’m in Russia! Why am I in Russia? Paralympics! Those are happening right now! What event was today? Downhill! I think I was worried about the downhill for some reason. Oh damn, I messed up my run somehow and now I am being flown off the hill in a helicopter. It must have been one heck of a crash. I wonder how far I made it? Damn, can’t remember. Not important. Ok, can I feel everything? Lets check. Stumps, where are you? Hey! There you are. I can feel those. The injuries must not be too bad. No bad pain yet, but I am sure that will come. That neck brace is probably for precaution. I wonder if the Russian paramedics speak english? I need to tell them what hurts so they can tend to me properly. I really don’t want them to screw anything up. Oh, hey there! “Hello! Where pain? Tell!” He says.
That is what I remember thinking and experiencing the moments before and after my crash in the Paralympic downhill at Rosa Khutor, Russia. I had never experienced anything like it and I never want to again. I won’t watch the crash footage, but from what I can gather from other people, I had an amazing run going until gate nine where I hit a unique sequence of bumps that my body and suspension couldn’t compensate for. I had not expected this part of the course to be a problem, but I was thrown head over heels several times, lost consciousness, broke some of my equipment, and ended up in a crumpled heap a few hundred meters down from the bump I had just launched off at more than 60 miles per hour.
When I got to the hospital the doctors immediately cut all my clothes off, covered me in a sheet, and sent me through a CAT scan as well as an MRI. Miraculously the results showed me to be unbroken both times. If you saw the crash you would have thought otherwise. An hour after the crash the pain started. If you are curious as to what that felt like, go work out everything in your body to complete exhaustion, then keep doing it until you are physically incapable of movement. Then have someone smash a baseball bat upside your head.
I consider myself extraordinarily lucky that I was not more injured. This crash could have ended up far worse. I am very sorry for scaring people and that was never my intention. What I was trying to do was win the race. I had a plan worked out before I ran that would have done just that and I had executed it flawlessly up until the crash. My plan included nothing that I wasn’t sure I was physically capable of doing, but as I have said before, you can be the most well trained, prepared person on the hill but luck still plays a role.
I am on the mend now and improving daily. I have no permanent damage and I fully intend on getting back on skis and going fast again. I am a little upset for having another unsuccessful Paralympics, but overwhelmingly happy to be healthy. Russia has put on a very good Paralympics and the people I have met here are amazing, but it is now time to go home.
Sochi, Russia at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center
The Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort is located at the Aibga Ridge. It is a single venue and hosts all Alpine Skiing disciplines at both the Olympics and Paralympics: Downhill, Combined (downhill and slalom), Giant Slalom and the Super Giant Slalom. The total length of the competition tracks is 20 km.
NBC Olympics’ coverage will include all five Paralympic winter sports – alpine skiing (which includes snowboarding), biathlon, cross-country skiing, wheelchair curling and ice sledge hockey – 52 hours of coverage spread across 11 days on NBC and NBCSN.
All times listed below are Sochi, Russia time
MEN’S DOWNHILL, Sitting
11:50 am Saturday, March 8, 2014
Watch live on NBCSN @ 1 am ET onMarch 9
MEN’S SUPER-G, Sitting
12:15 pm Sunday, March 9, 2014
Watch live on NBCSN@ 2 am ET on March 10
MEN’S SUPER COMBINED DOWNHILL, Sitting
12:30 pm Tuesday, March 11, 2014
MEN’S SUPER COMBINED SLALOM, Sitting
18:05 pm Tuesday, March 11, 2014
MEN’S SLALOM 1st RUN, Sitting
17:55 pm Thursday, March 13, 2014
MEN’S SLALOM 2nd RUN, Sitting
20:35 pm Thursday, March 13, 2014
MEN’S GIANT SLALOM 1st RUN, Sitting
11:45 am Saturday, March 15, 2014
Watch live on NBCSN @ 4:40 am ET on March 16
MEN’S GIANT SLALOM 2nd RUN, Sitting
14:55 pm Saturday, March 15, 2014
February 25, 2014
World Cup Finals
It is extremely difficult to write while Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner is playing at ear drum rupturing volume in the background. That is an inconvenience I am willing to live with, however, because this song is what my teammates and I play when we have had a particularly good day. Today we just finished the downhill portion of the world cup finals with my teammate Chris Devlin-Young finishing with a second and third place in two races, securing for himself the world cup downhill title for this year. I did not podium, but two top ten finishes today made me second in the downhill rankings. It also means that, with only two races left in the world cup season this year, I have enough points in the overall world cup rankings to completely secure the overall world cup title for all races combined. Chris, who has been racing much longer than myself, tells me that no American male has ever won the world cup overall title. Excuse me while I go see if the music can get any louder.
The world cup races this season have taken a back seat in importance in regards to the Paralympics coming up next week. Regardless, you can’t help but take them seriously once you are in the starting gate. Winning the overall world cup title is much like a lifetime achievement award and it literally takes a lifetime of training and racing to be consistent enough to even come close. Many things have to come together at the right time including equipment, technique, training and coaching. I have an amazing coaching staff and lots of supporters and sponsors who have all made this possible.
I now have one more race and a few days off before I travel to Sochi. I am really enjoying Italy including its culinary delights, although I really need to find a source of vegetables soon. They love their pasta and meat here, especially when they can enjoy it over three hours and twelve courses. The snow is plentiful, however, and the people are very nice and helpful.
The Paralympics always seem like they are looming in the horizon. In a few days we will get our uniforms and final lectures about logistics and proper decorum during the games. I have been told many times about what I can and cannot say about my experience at the games, so future updates might not be as entertaining as I would like. I can tell you that there are a lot of strange rules I have to follow and you may have to Google between the lines. By now you have probably seen some parts of the uniform and some of the venues in Sochi. We will be wearing the same clothes and competing in the same places, but with different logos. We will still look fabulous.
February 5, 2014
I have officially been nominated to the 2014 US Paralympic Team, a press release from US Paralympics has just told me, but this does not surprise me very much. I am sitting on my couch, not jumping for joy and my heart rate has only slightly registered the news. I am happy, sure, but I have expected to accomplish this for a long time.
I do not want to come off as cocky or ungrateful, so allow me to explain. I have been racing on the US Paralympics Alpine Ski Team for about ten years. In order to be on the team for this long I have had to be consistently successful. All of my training in the mental and physical aspects of this sport has been towards success on the race hill. I do not always win, but in general I have been quite successful. For me, doing well at a race, is the equivalent of turning in a decent term paper for university or completely fulfilling your job expectations at work. Granted, my job is a really unique and exciting one, but it is still a job. I expect to go to the Paralympics like university students expect to graduate or people expect to be promoted after years of hard work.
Winning a medal at the Paralympics will be another matter entirely.
It is considered a grand thing to win a medal at the Olympics and Paralympics. A lifetime of hard work leads to one moment to shine. Some people have several chances but the idea is the same. Statistically, doing well at the Olympics and Paralympics is very unlikely. The race itself is like any other, albeit with more people watching and cameras recording your every move. Ski racing is extremely intense and you have to perform at your full potential immediately, for about two minutes. If you let up at all, you lose. Therefore, the rate at which you have a great run is really low. The chances of everything working out for you for a single two minute run every four years, as you can imagine, is really low.
I find the pressure from coaches, teammates, family, friends, and media to do well at a single race every four years to be very frustrating. In many ways, winning the overall World Cup title is harder to do and better reflects who is the best skier in the world. Athletes know this and this title is much sought after. It is much harder to explain this concept to the rest of the world. Everyone loves a hero, and what better way to become one than winning at the most important sporting event the world has ever seen?
With all that said, I am very excited to have the opportunity to compete in Sochi this March. I have a burning desire to win every event I compete in, despite the odds. I know this goal is mildly unrealistic, but in an environment like the Paralympics you tend get caught up in things. There is always the chance that I will not achieve a podium in any event, and I will have to accept that this is a possible outcome. In the last two Paralympics this outcome became my reality and it was devastating. My mind went to some very dark places for a long time. I might have to deal with this reality again, and I fear that this will be one of the greatest mental challenges I have yet faced.
January 17-31, 2014
World Cup Races at Copper, Colorado and Tignes, France
You can’t win every race, but every ski racer definitely tries to do so. This was exactly what I was trying to do in the second slalom of the World Cup in Copper, CO last week. After a wild ride on the first run I was sitting in sixth place. I should have been happy that I even finished the run because ruts were developing that almost sent me head-over-heels multiple times. In IPC (International Paralympic Committee) World Cup races, sit-skiers, my class, run last after two other classes: the visually impaired and standing (people missing a leg or an arm but ski standing up). This means that I run after at least 60 people, so the course has really deteriorated by the time that I run.
Fourth place is a really irritating place to be in. You almost made it, but not quite. All the time and effort, just to be the first person not on the podium. One fourth is not so bad, but by the end of the Copper World Cup I had a streak of several fourths and fifths and it was starting to wear on me. I wanted to win so badly but I kept making weird little mistakes in every run. To make it worse, the same people seemed to win every day. I have always striven to be fast and consistent, but it sometimes seems as unattainable as the desire to be come an astronaut.
Fast forward to the present and I am now in Tignes, France at another World Cup race. I have been here several times over my career and every time there has been more snow at this one place than any other ski area I have seen. This trip has not disappointed in that regard, as we got two feet of snow in the first two days. This meant that the first downhill training run was cancelled in favor of powder skiing, my favorite event. I love racing, but I live for powder skiing. Two days of this completely reset my mood and perspective towards the entire sport. Anyone who is moderately good at skiing will understand how the feeling of flying over fluffy clouds of powder will completely remove a bad mood.
Today the weather cleared up and we were able to have a downhill training run in the morning. In the afternoon, due to our now shortened schedule because of the snow, we ran the fist of two downhill races. Because of the powder skiing, I was in such a good mood that I won the first training run and got second in the race. I had some obvious mistakes in the race run, but I am so happy now that I don’t even care. I can just let it go and move on to the next race. That is the power of powder.
— This is the second in a series of articles I am writing for the Littleton Record newspaper.
January 11, 2014
World Cup Race, Panorama, British Columbia
Ski races hardly ever turn out according to plan. If they did, everyone would win. So it always helps to try and create as much fun as possible amidst the chaos of unpredictability.
During a recent World Cup event, this pursuit of fun left me stuck between a pile of rocks and a pine tree in the back bowl of Panorama, B.C. It had snowed just enough to cancel the super-combined race we had scheduled for the day, so my teammate, Chris Devlin-Young and I decided to follow some coaches to a snow field where the powder was rumored to be deeper than anywhere else on the mountain.
After a lot of traversing through un-tracked powder I accidentally scraped over a pile of rocks I couldn’t see. In an effort to extract myself, I fell off the rocks and into a tree-well. After ten minutes and a lot of pushing and digging, I got myself out and onto the snowfield.
The effort was worth it, though, as the snowfield had seemingly bottomless powder and the way down was easily one of the funnest runs I have had this season.
Chris, who coached me at Loon Mountain for several years before I made the national team, was the driving force to get me from recreational skier to World Cup competitor, and is one of the few people I trust to get themselves into and out of tricky skiing situations.
Creating fun on this trip has been of great importance. I am very well prepared for this season and my confidence in my abilities is high, but luck still plays a huge role in ski racing. Inserting elements of fun into this journey to the Sochi Paralympics keeps the seriousness of competition from becoming too overwhelming.
The following description of my races will make it clear how serious the competition can get.
Downhill was the first race at this location. I was feeling really good about it because it started off with a series of technical turns, which I do really well, with the last half being much straighter and faster. Unfortunately I don’t ski fast, straight courses very well because I don’t weight very much and I wasn’t able to ski the technical part precisely enough which ended my day in eighth place, a few seconds out of first. On Sunday, after the powder day, we were able to race a super-combined (one run each of downhill and slalom) and I had similar problems with the downhill portion. I redeemed myself in the slalom, however, by winning that portion handily. Unfortunately, the effort was only enough to out me in into fourth, an immensely infuriating position to be in.
On Monday we ran giant slalom and it started off great, only to end in more frustration. I won the first run by one hundredth of a second and there were about ten guys within a second of my time. I was feeling rally good for the second run and my mind thought I had the race wrapped up. Unfortunately, I ended up not skiing dangerously enough to remain on top, and I ended up fifth.
Tuesday was the super-G (faster and straighter than giant slalom, but a bit slower than downhill) and I was really excited for it because of its more technical nature compared to downhill. My excitement was to be short-lived, however. When I inspected the course it appeared to be technical enough for me to win, but when I ran it, the course turned out to be faster than the downhill. This deception happens on occasion but I still managed another fifth.
About Me: I learned to ski and race a Cannon Mountain, Loon Mountain, and Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. I happen to be missing both of my legs at the knee, and I ski using a device called a mono ski or sit ski. This device is much like the rear end of a mountain bike, where a metal frame moves up and down with the help of a shock absorber. I sit, strapped in on the top of the frame, with a single ski on the bottom in place of a wheel This mono ski allows me to ski just like someone standing up, but in a sitting position. I am currently trying to qualify for and hopefully compete in the Paralympics this year in Sochi, Russia. The Paralympics, for clarification, are the same as the Olympics, but for people with physical disabilities. Competition takes place in the same location as the Olympics, just a few weeks. later.
— This is the second in a series of articles I am writing for the Littleton Record newspaper.
Russia is different.
I have always thought that if were a foreigner flying to the United States, customs was a most unwelcoming and frustrating first experience of this country. Getting into the EU, on the other hand, is super easy and they seem to actually want you to be there. Going to Russia is like going to the United States. You have to fill out a lengthy application and they want to know everything about you. When you get there you have to recheck all of your bags and recheck-in for your next flight. When you are on a 20 person team and every one of you has at least 4 bags at or above 50lbs, this is no easy task. The trip took a while, but we made it.
One of my first experiences of Russia was quite funny. My teammates and I were all sitting at the back of the plane, waiting to disembark in Sochi. Our wheelchairs had not come up to the plane yet so we inquired to the steward if they were going to come up to the plane at all. He pauses for a moment, looks out the door of the plane, looks back at us, and with a slight frown says “I will ask, but this is Russia.” (Where did they go? Siberia?)
We stayed in this completely manufactured village called Rosa Khutor that consists of nothing but giant hotels and a sewage infested river running through the middle. The nearest real town is about 30 minutes down the valley. There is construction going on all along the valley, 24/7, and I have never seen so many dump trucks and concrete mixers in one place.
The security situation in this area is intense. Sochi is just barely north of the Georgian border, which Russia invaded a few years ago over a dispute about Russians living in several regions bordering Russia. This did not go well for Georgia, so they are not exactly friends. Chechnya, a republic of Russia, is a few hundred kilometers to the east, and Russia has had to quell several uprisings over the past few decades. Due to all of this one can see not just the police everywhere, but the army, too. The ski area is accessed by one gondola and you are only allowed to go up there on the days you are racing, so freeskiing is not possible. You also need to pass through full airport-like security run by guards who have no sense of humor and are not allowed to smile. The skiing looks like it would be great and the mountain is huge and steep, but the chances of running into hidden machine gun nests and razor wire are rather higher than your average ski area.
The downhill is awesome. We ran down the men’s downhill which has all sorts of cool terrain features, including steeps, flats, fall-away turns, and a real jump! We don’t often have jumps in our downhills because there are some disability classes that are not well suited to flying through the air, or so I have been told. I saw all the disability classes go down the course and they did just fine, with no one class crashed more than the other. The track was a ton of fun and if you ran it correctly you were in the air for quite some time. Due to very soft snow and warm weather, we ran the only training run of the downhill and the first race on the same day. Normally a downhill takes two days of training and one day of racing. I ended up winning the race because of a perfect combination of a bumpy track, technical turns, and a jump I was not at all afraid of going full speed on. The next day we had another downhill and my teammate, Chris Devlin-Young, won. It bodes well for next year.
The next day it started to rain. We were supposed to run a super-combined but the track go too soft and the visibility was too bad so we just ran a slalom. In the slalom I was top ten in the first run and easily within striking distance for the podium. In my second run I skied some of the best slalom I have ever skied, but I went too straight into a flush just before the finish and flipped over the wrong side of the last few gates. This has been a pattern the whole year, but I know that once I get my consistency, I will crush slaloms.
At the end of this World Cup season I ended up third in the giant slalom standings and I won the speed events globe (we don’t have enough races to do separate globes for downhill and super-g, and a crystal globe is the first place prize of any world cup overall category). Overall it wasn’t a bad year, but I have the skills to be the best.
Thanks to all my sponsors for helping me through another season. Nike, Starz Entertainment, Aspen Seating, POC and Enabling Technologies make it happen!
Here are some pictures!
These World Championships have been a challenging time. The downhill track was really long, but half of it was really flat, which does not benefit me because I have the least amount of mass of the entire men’s monoski field. The second half of the track was quite steep, but the turns were not technically challenging, so I couldn’t make up all the time I had lost in the flats. Regardless, I skied as fast a run as I was able, but all I could manage was 10th place. The super-g was the same situation but the field became slightly more competitive and I ended up in 12th.
The rest of the races ended up even worse for me. I did not manage to finish the super-combined, giant slalom or slalom due my equipment setup and the snow conditions. All of these events require a great deal of stivot turns, which means that you pivot your ski at the top of the turn to give the ski more direction towards the next turn than you would have with a normal, carved turn. Stivots are used when you can’t generate enough pressure quickly enough to make the turn in a clean arc because of the high speed, snow conditions, and/or steepness of the hill. My monoski carves an amazing turn, but does not stivot very well when the snow is really hard, which it was.
The World Championships were not a complete loss, however. On the last day we had a team event in the form of a mini skier-cross. We had an 18 second track with berms and bumps and we each went down it one at a time, with the three fastest times from your country recorded. As a team we managed second place, and I was the second fastest monoskier down the track, only a few hundredths off the fastest. I felt quite at home after many years of X-Games. It was not the most important race of the event, but it made the entire team a little bit happier.
The pressure of an even like the World Championships and to a greater extent the Paralympics, are unique in the world of ski racing. If you want to win, everything has to come together for you in one brief moment lasting no more than two minutes. All your training and media exposure you experience in the years prior is all focused on winning in these two main events, and you only have one shot every few years. If one tiny thing goes wrong, it seems like you have just wasted years of your life for nothing. If you can’t tell yet, I am not a fan of these events. The regular world cup is, in a sense, much harder and a better gauge for who is a better skier. To win a world cup overall title, you have to ski consistently well the entire season. In this environment I have done much better, winning three overall titles in two disciplines in my career. I have never had success at the World Championships or Paralympics, and those two events are all people seem to remember and care about. It is a uniquely infuriating circumstance, but that is what powder days are for.
Here are some pictures from the World Championships.
I am almost finished packing for tomorrow’s trip to Spain to compete in the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) World Championships, as well as World Cup Finals in Russia a bit later. I have rifled through the contents of my room many times over looking for random bits of accouterments necessary for skiing. I have packed and then repacked all my bags, trying to get them all to 50 pounds or less. I believe I have failed miserably on a few of them, judging by the difficulty I have had picking them up. The last year has been spent preparing for these races, with countless hours in the gym, on the hill, and in the tune room, making sure my body and my equipment are functioning well enough to go faster than everyone else. Even with all the preparation, there is no guaranty of success. I am acutely aware that despite being extremely well trained, the effect of hitting a rut just slightly at the wrong angle is enough to send me hurtling into the safety netting. Regardless, my bags are packed, and all I want is the opportunity to push out of the starting gate.
The World Championships are being held in the town of La Molina, Spain. The hill for giant slalom and slalom has a really steep pitch, so I should have some advantage, as I am lighter and more maneuverable than the average monoskier. The hill for the speed events, however, is rumored to be quite flat, which is not good for me at all. I have quite a bit of skill at speed events, but I am lighter than everyone else out there, making rough terrain, wind gusts, and mistakes add much more to my overall time.
I am most excited for Russia. We are having a test event in Sochi so that we can make sure the venues are going to work properly before the Paralympics next year. Most of what I know about Russia has been learned from years of movies, all with a strong Western Cold War bias. I assume this portrayal is not quite accurate, but the visa application process would suggest the movies are not all wrong. The Russians want to know a bit too much information about you, especially if you have ever been in the military. I don’t have to deal with this issue, but a few teammates do. I can’t help but wonder how I can get a Russian customs agent to say to me “Mister Valker, vee haf vays of making you talk.” That would be fun. I have also learned a few useful Russian phrases, my favorite of which is “spokoynoy nochi” which means “goodnight.” I plan on using this phrase in as many unsuitable situations as possible, such as to the start referee, just before I go out of the start. Imagine the confusion.
The rest of my bags are not going to pack themselves, so google Rosa Khutor, the name of the ski area in Sochi, and I am going to finish up here.
Talk to you from Spain.
I was just training in Valle Nevado, Chile for a few weeks where we did a lot of work on technique for giant slalom and Super-g. The snow was great, with a few days of ice, bullet proof snow. The food, on the other hand, was rather lacking in flavor, variety, and definition that would suggest it was something other than roast dog. The water also smelled of diesel fuel and functioned as quite an efficient laxative. Complaining aside, we were in Chile, which is seriously awesome. The mountains are of such immensity, it is difficult to grasp the scale of things. The people were super friendly, too. We got to celebrate Chilean Independence Day at the ski area, and they put on a crazy party. With all that said, I made a video of one of my training runs, and not of the food or water.
I just got back from an amazing time at the ESPYS! They took place at the Nokia Theater and JW Marriott hotel, both of which are massive and super fancy places.
There were pre-parties, after-parties, and after-after-parties, all of which were outrageous. The music was really loud at each party, and no venue had speakers less than ten feet tall. If you were to go into cardiac arrest, CPR would not be needed, for you would promptly snap out of it, your heart beating in time to some hip hop beat. I learned also that ESPN thinks rap/hip-hop are the only music genres athletes like to listen to. I must have missed that memo.
Before the actual awards show everyone had to walk down the red carpet, full of loud and obnoxious paparazzi who only had attention for the famous and fabulous. I had the unfortunate luck to find myself in between Danica Patrick and Maria Sherapova for this experience. One might imagine that no guy couldn’t imagine a better place to be than between these two. I can attest, however, that when cameras were involved everyone else became invisible, including myself. I think three out of about one hundred photographers took my photo, mostly out of pity. I did, however, have a fantastic suit and rather good looking hair.
Overall it was a once or few times in a lifetime experience that was definitely worth it. I did not get to hobnob with anyone famous, unfortunately. I barely watch sports so I had no idea who anyone was. I did not win an ESPY, either. The prize in my category went to Kyle Maynard who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with no arms or legs.
I have been nominated for an ESPY under the category of Best Male Athlete With A Disability! The winner of an ESPY, however, is determined by public voting. This means you, the public, must go to the ESPY website and VOTE! If you are not familiar with the ESPYS, they are an awards show put together by ESPN that honors athletic accomplishments. They also have about as much craziness as the Academy Awards and other similar award shows so if you are looking for something to watch on July 11th at 9pm ET they should prove to be most entertaining.
Here is the link: http://www.espn.com/espys
You have many options of people to vote for, but I would greatly appreciate your vote in my particular category. I won’t be like a political candidate and promise a world of things I have no power to give in order to get your vote. However, if I am ever in possession of large quantities of punch and pie, I would throw a huge punch and pie party and all of my supporters would be invited, with good times to be had by all. After all, who doesn’t like punch and pie, especially together? I digress. In conclusion, go vote!
Tyler won the 2012 Adaptive Athlete of the Year Award by the US Ski and Snowboard Association, presented during the USSA Congress 2012 at the Chairman’s Awards Dinner on May 11 at Utah’s Park City Marriott.
It is given in alpine, cross country, adaptive, freestyle, freeskiing, jumping/nordic combined, and snowboarding to an USSA athlete based on criteria established by that sport.
For Tyler’s nomination, the following was written, “Tyler has been on the U.S. Paralympic National Team (former U.S. Adaptive National Team) since 2003. He is currently ranked in the top 10 in GS and SL and top 5 in SG and SC in the world. He had an outstanding season and was our top male World Cup point scorer with 681 of the team’s 4657 overall points which lead to the U.S. Paralympic Alpine National Team winning the Nation’s Cup for the first time since 2010.
Tyler finished 3rd in the World Cup overall, 6th in SL and GS overall, and 1st in SC and SG. No DHs were held this season. In 2012, Tyler was on the podium on the I.P.C. World Cup four times including a SC win at the World Cup finals (the first U.S. win in SC), and was the US Paralympic National Champion in DH, SG and SL.”
I just came back from a shock testing camp at Mt. Hood, Oregon. During that time I experimented with my Go Pro camera to capture what my suspension was doing while I was skiing. I mounted the camera under my seat, aimed it at my suspension, and this is what I came up with.
In summary, I have never had a longer period of crashes and mistakes in a series of races than this round of the paralympics. In my last race, the super-G, I caught unexpected air at the last gate which caused me to fly sideways and upside down over the finish line at about 50-60 mph. The resulting crash caused me to lose my ski and receive a collective (AAAHHHH!!!) from the crowd, followed a few minutes later by a big cheer when I got back up again. Due to this crash and one the day before in the downhill, I was too beat up to race the super-combined on the last day. My results for slalom and giant slalom were less than spectacular and not worth noting here. Historically I have been very good at racing and enjoyed really good results on a more or less consistent basis. To not do well for a long time is unusual for me. After a great amount of though, however, I have figured out why I was unable to achieve success.
First, at the beginning of the season I changed to new monoski built by a Japanese company called Nissin. This monoski is really good at using the whole ski and arcs turns like nothing else out there. Unfortunately it only skis correctly when one’s weight is in the back seat and one gives oneself tons of room at the top of each turn to make the turn. I had not figured out either of these things by the time the Paralympics came around, and thus suffered the consequences. I also had very little training in hard, icy, bumpy snow, which was the kind we had at the Paralympics, and thus was quite unprepared.
With all that said I did end up having a good time. It was great to see tons of people from all over the world speaking all sorts of languages. The ceremonies for everything were really well done, with the exception of the Inuit throat singing done by a one Tanya Taguk in the closing ceremonies. Inuit throat sining is not to be confused with Tuvan throat singing, which I find quite enjoyable and melodious. Tanya’s singing was more akin to a theatrical asthma attack with which there is no medicine to ease the discomfort. I actually sat through a two hour concert/dance performance of Tanya Taguk last spring in Vancouver, two hours of which I can never get back.
Anyway, on to the pictures.
My teammate, George, practicing his cheering pose.
CDY bathing in his fan-mail. I had no fan mail. My side of the room was lonely and bare.
Me with the Paralympic mascot (Sumi?).
We had this welcome ceremony for just the US team at the athlete village and after the ceremony I found the hottest girls I could and took a picture with them. They were all involved in the ceremonies in some way, but the girl to my left is Laura Vandervoort, who also stars in the TV show called “V”.
The athlete village at night.
Arly, one of the two Mexican skiers in the games.
The ski team, waiting to march into the stadium in Vancouver for the opening ceremonies. Ralph Lauren provided a lot of our uniform and in his infinite wisdom, thought it would be a great idea to have us dress up in a super heavy wool sweater with a really big turtle-neck, then put on a really warm down coat, then top it off with a really warm wool hat. We had to wear this get-up for several hours in 60 degree weather, when we would could have outlasted penguins in Antarctica.
My friend John came to visit and tour the athlete village, above which we both felt it necessary that he strike a gallant pose.
Overly enthusiastic fans at the closing ceremonies.
Pom-pom dancing kids that were required to dance as long as athletes were entering the closing ceremonies. Towards the end of the column they were getting less and less enthusiastic.
After the closing ceremonies I was mobbed by a group of girls from Hawaii who really wanted to meet a paralympian. Glad I could be of service.
Today we had our first downhill training run. The course starts at the top of the women’s Olympic downhill but has slightly more turns and not as much air time. The weather was horrible the whole day, with tons of snow and fog. After many course holds and waiting around at the start I ran my run at about 4 pm when the light was very flat. I very much enjoy being able to see the terrain I am skiing over at 60 mph but I had no such luxury. Luckily the track was very smooth but quite icy. There is a jump onto the finish pitch called ‘hot air’ which turned out to be tons of fun. I was about 1-2 feet off the ground and flew about 30 feet with my weight a bit too far forward, causing my to do a bit of a tip stand but I managed to land it.
The day turned out to be super long, with us getting back to the athlete village at about 5 pm. Chris Devlin-Young, my roommate, got a package jammed packed with fan mail from his sponsors so he has been opening them and reading them all aloud. He has already done about 20 and only has about 80 more to do. Thats all the excitement for today. Check back later
The opening schedule is on Friday the 12th at 6:00 PM at the BC Place in Vancouver.
The ski events occur at Whistler starting Saturday the 13th (about 2 hours north of Vancouver).
Calendar of events (pdf)
After no coverage 4 years ago, this year there will be coverage- NBC and Universal Sports will have 1 hour on the Opening Ceremony Sat 13th 1:00 PM EST and highlights in April on the 10th 3-5 OM EST.
Paralympic Sport TV has coverage over the internet. http://player27.narrowstep.tv
Team USA will have postings and video: http://usparalympics.org/
Another source for news: http://www.paralympic.org
Some more information: http://www.disabled-world.com/sports/paralympics/2010/
And events will be broadcast on the internet – need a fast connection: http://www.findinternettv.com/Sites/433/Paralympic-Sport-TV.aspx
We have a day off to relax from traveling today. I have had a lot of time to check out the village today. There are many countries here, all with different and vibrantly colored uniforms. Many people I recognize from the alpine world cup circuit, but all the nordic teams are staying here too. Nordic skiing appears to be a big deal in eastern Europe because there are big teams from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. I even saw teams from Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Mongolia. My goal is to befriend one of the Mongolians and trade jackets with them, because how cool would it be to have a Mongolian Paralympic jacket?!
There really isn’t much going on here. I have traveled to the base of downhill and checked things out, but everything is still pretty quiet. The waste that is generated at the athlete village is staggering. Coca Cola and McDonalds are major sponsors of the food and drink here, so many things, including drinks, come in some sort of packaging and all of that has to be dealt with. Fortunately, everything so far has been recyclable, with the exception of the McDonald’s packaging.
It is super relaxing to be living here, though. Absolutely everything is taken care of for you so that all you need to think about is when you are getting food and when you are getting on the bus to go to the hill. I can get a massage whenever I want, too. I might just do that, actually.
Today we flew from Denver to Vancouver, Canada, then took a bus up to Whistler where all the Alpine events are being held. The travel experience was not too exciting.
This evening we got to the Whistler Athlete Village which is about 10 minutes down the road from the ski area. The village is really well built and resembles a small college campus. Every country has their own floor in one of the numerous residence halls and their are many lounges and public areas where you can find cafes, game rooms, workout facilities, entertainment plazas, movie theaters and even a multi-faith center if you need to get your meditation or bible study on. The dining hall is a massive permanent tent with tons of food options. It even has a full service McDonalds and McCafe if you feel like you want to “eat like an olympian.” If you don’t get that reference and think its rediculous, check out McDonald’s recent add campaign where they have olympic athletes eating at McDonalds, giving the impression that their food somehow enhances one’s performance.
The world cup races are finally over and now we get to focus on the bigger and better things, such as the paralympics. Today we drove down to a hotel in Denver where we spent most of the day getting our uniform for the paralympics. Never before have we gotten so much swag for any event. The two main sponsors of the US Paralympic team, Nike and Ralph Lauren, made sure we had enough cloths to wear something completely different, every day, for a month. Each one of us went around a big conference room and filled three huge duffel bags full of jackets, shirts, sweaters, shoes, socks, more jackets, scarves, gloves and hats. Ralph Lauren even gave us a style guide for those times when we are feeling totally overwhelmed and just can’t figure out how to pull off “that classic Ralph Lauren look.” Apparently, its all about how you mix, match, and layer.
After we got our uniform we got to sit through a three hour presentation about how to be a Paralympic Ambassador. The whole thing ended up being a lecture about how to not freak out and not be stupid at the games. Unfortunately it was presented to us as if we were little kids with ADD, so it was quite excruciating to sit through. One useful thing I did learn was that I am not allowed to post any pictures or videos of any paralympic venues, logos or ceremonies on my blog. Apparently “THE MAN” owns the entire experience, regardless of the athletes who make the whole thing possible, and “THE MAN” doesn’t want free publicity or anyone else to enjoy the experience unless they want to bend over and pay big bucks. With that said, my posting of pictures and video will be somewhat limited.
I have decided to do a bit of training before the paralympics. I chose to train with Challenge Aspen in Aspen, Colorado where I could get all the race training and freeskiing that I ever wanted. I have been able to get lots of runs on a downhill and super-g on the Tiehack side of Buttermilk mountain, which turned out to be a ton of fun and also happens to be the location of our world cup finals for this year. These speed races were actually part of the Rocky Mountain Masters series, so the competitors were in ages from 21 to 80’s. This was quite a mixture of people, as you can imagine. Some of them made it down the mountain in a minute and thirty seconds, others in over three minutes. Course inspection was highly entertaining because it seemed that every racer had an opinion about how the course was set, and made their opinion known to the course setter, who actually reset the course the way the racers wanted it! This could only ever happen with the masters category, as such input by racers to any other course setter in any other form of ski racing would be unthinkable. The course ended up running fine, but it was also quite do-able in its original form.
Besides training, the weather demanded that I do quite a bit of powder skiing. We had three days straight of ~12″ dumps, so I thought it prudent to ski each of those days. The snow was so deep that I would almost go under the snow every turn, then pop up out of it in each transition. I was using a 186 cm Volkl Gotama rockered pow ski, so I was able to porpoise out of the snow when it got really deep. The three days were easily the best powder days I have ever had. In no other form of skiing do I use more muscles to control my movements and it was great to rip down steep runs and not be hindered by gates telling me where to turn.
Skiing at Aspen Highlands, this was as close as we were to get, short of hiking, to Highlands bowl.
Me, coach Tim of Challenge Aspen, and my teammate, Chris Devlin-Young. Highlands Bowl is in the background.
A cool picture of Chris.
I just got back from Winter X-Games 14 in Aspen, Colorado. My event, Monoskier-X, is basically skier cross, but everyone uses monoskis and we go four at once, first one to the bottom wins. This year our course had quite a bit of modification to allow monoskiers to actually finish the course and make all the jumps successfully. We often have problems with normal skier cross courses because we are not able to generate enough speed to clear the bigger jumps. This year we had our own features in key spots to enable us to have a smooth run. The jump at the bottom of the course was really big and had us going at least 60 feet, about 10 feet off the ground, more than enough time to recite one’s ABCs before landing. There was a great deal of carnage this year as well. Every heat had several people fall, sometimes into each other, making it very entertaining. You will find a lot of that in my last heat, the final, where I had to react very quickly to avoid flailing bodies.
The video above was taken of the jumbotron. Below is ESPN’s summary video.
It was a really fun event and I want to thank my support crew, consisting of my parents, my cousin Ernie, and my Aunt Liz for making all of this happen.
I just finished up a series of world cup races in Sestriere, Italy, on the same mountain as the 2006 Paralympics. I had two downhills, two super-Gs, and one super combined. The track was almost exactly the same as when we raced on it in the past and the snow was almost perfect, man-made and really fast. We stayed in this hotel called The Belvedere which is supposed to be about four stars, but made sure that most of us were in two star rooms. My room, in particular, had all the humidity from our entire floor funnel into the room, which caused the window and surrounding ceiling to drip with water. After a bit of airing out it was slightly bearable. Below is a clip of my first downhill race. I ended up not skiing the next day. See if you can figure out why.
I ended up breaking my shoulder straps, popping out of my monoski like a cork. I also bent by best downhill ski. I did eventually recover, but I was seriously sore the next day. At he end of these series of races I managed to scrape together a fourth place finish in the final super-G, even after I just about fell half way down, so not too shabby.
A cool ridgeline in Sestriere that I really wish I had a chance to ski.
Before we flew home we spent the night near Munich, Germany. Having some free time on our hands, a bunch of us went in to the city to check things out. The above picture was just one of those things we checked out. Oh the boots!
I just finished the first World Cup stop of the season at Patscherkofel, Austria. We raced on the same hill that held the downhill for the 1964 and 1976 Olympics, but we instead ran a slalom and giant slalom. The track was mostly boiler-plate ice which has proved exceedingly difficult for me to manage. I have not been able to hold an edge reliably at all which has caused me to have disappointing results in both races (second to last in GS, 8th in SL). Each run has had me sliding all over the place with very little control and has even involved a few instances where I slid out completely, slid down the course a ways, pop up again when my edge caught, and continue down the run, having to re-generate all the speed I was carrying. Since these races I have been trying to trouble-shoot the problem without much success. My edges are extremely sharp and my technique is good enough (when I am not sliding out of control) to be able to grip on the ice, yet I still can’t do it. Every coach I talk to seems to be telling me something different about how to correct my problem, but nothing yet has helped.
The base area of Patscherkofel.
Betty-Lynn, the guide dog of Danielle Umstead, one of my teammates. Betty-Lynn and I share a bench seat every day when we go to the hill.
We are staying in the town of Rum, about 3 miles from the center of Innsbruck. This is a view of the Olympic ski jumps above the city.
My roommate, Chris Devlin-Young, aka Captain World Cup.
Tomorrow we are off to Abtenau, Austria for another series of races. Should be fun.
I just finished up a week of training at Copper Mountain, Colorado. I have been going to the hill almost every day with my teammate George to train with the NASC ski camp and some of our coaches. We have had several days of giant slalom and slalom training, in both of which we have made a lot of improvement and are now skiing very well.
I have been staying with George and his wife Heather in the town of Leadville, Colorado for the past week. It is often very difficult for me to train away from home because I always have to find a place to stay and arrange for transportation to and from the hill every day, and George and Heather have been extremely helpful and hospitable in providing both of those things. Heather is a great cook too and has made sure we are all well fed.
George, also known as Bro.
The town of Leadville is a fascinating place. It is about 20 minutes south of I-70 from Copper Mountain and is a true mining town. Fancy development that you might see in Vail or Aspen hasn’t happened here due to the lack of a huge, popular ski area nearby. Main street looks like a very typical western style street with box shaped buildings with flat facades. All the houses in the area are single story ranches, prefabs, double-wides or trailers. No-one wastes time with million dollar ski chalets here. Some people even put two completely different mobile homes together, and no yard seems complete without some combination of truck (lifted at least a foot higher than normal, with chrome exhaust stacks coming out of the bed), truck on blocks, rusty kitchen appliances, or a tractor. I had Thanksgiving with Heather’s family whom are all very nice and made sure I had far more than enough to eat. I tried to dress a bit nice for the occasion with a good sweater but when I got there I realized that everyone had either hunting camo, nascar shirts, or Denver Broncos football jerseys on, which made me feel a bit out of place. They even made fun of me for talking too much like an east coaster. I tried very hard not to bring up politics with any of them for I got the distinct impression that Obama was far from popular. When we were eating dinner the main focus was not so much on everyone else but rather the TV where the Denver Broncos were delivering a thrashing to some other football team. I know just enough of the rules to appreciate the game, but I know next to nothing beyond that. A few members of the family were constantly on their knees, feet from the TV, yelling at the players and coaches to do this and that, as if they knew more about the game than they players and coaches did. At one point it was so loud that I bet the players in Denver could actually here them. The Broncos did end up winning, so there could be something to this couch-coaching.
George’s neighborhood. The town of Leadville is about 10,000 feet high.
Part of the drive to Copper every morning.
I have also had a potential breakthrough in my training. I think I may have just figured out how to run slalom with the correct technique to be successful. The tricky thing about slalom is that you can turn so quickly and put so much energy into the turn that your ski or your suspension can easily toss you right out of the course. I think I have just figured out how to stop that from happening. Unfortunately I can’t go into details because this is the internet and the Japanese, Austrians, Germans or Canadian ski teams could potentially read this blog and find out my secrets, which would be less than profitable for me.
I can tell you, however, that I did knock my front teeth out on a slalom gate on Thanksgiving day. I always wear a chin guard when I train slalom, but the gate managed to get past it and smash my teeth in, which I managed to save. George and I managed to find a dentist who was willing to interrupt his Thanksgiving preparations and put my teeth back together. After much acid-etching, glue, drilling and polishing, my teeth are almost back to normal. They are, unfortunately, very sore and if I bite down the wrong way, hurt like hell. I thought I would have to eat turkey through a straw, but I managed to chew enough with my molars to get everything down. My teeth are getting better every day, though.
It is very awkward to eat and drink without one’s front teeth.
Today we have to meet up with the rest of the team in Summit County, Colorado to start another few weeks of training as well as the The Hartford Ski Spectacular at Breckenridge. I will update more as things progress.
I just went hunting for the first time. I call it hunting, but it was more of an excuse to go around the woods with a gun and not find anything. My friend and I each had a muzzleloader, camo fatigues, and orange vests as we headed out into the forest. I used my one-off bike to get around but it was far too cumbersome and noisy to really sneak up on anything. Instead, we found a promontory along these power lines where I could see in either direction for several hundred yards, and I set up to wait. My friend then walked around the woods on either side of me for several hours, trying to scare deer or other animals near me. Once they got within range, about 100 yards or less for these muzzleloaders, I would then blast them to smithereens.
As it turned out, we saw absolutely nothing. No living thing made its presence known to us, not even a peep, growl or scurry. All I did for half a day was sit on my butt and look at the woods. It wasn’t so bad though, I got about 3-4 hours of good heavy thinking, and staring at trees.
My view for many hours. Anything from the bottom of the hill and closer would have been toast, had it decided to cross the power lines.
That afternoon we got bored and decided that, as long as we had prepared all the guns, we might as well blast them off. So, we took a trip to the firing range with our armaments and found a few other groups of hunters that were sighting their guns in. Some of them had brought arsenals that would be the envy of Napoleon himself. One group had an entire pickup bed full of guns, which they fired off seemingly indiscriminately down range, with no breaks, for about an hour. They had some impressive guns and they were all very loud, but nothing compared to a .50 caliber muzzleloader with a ton of black powder, which we had. We each took a shot with our guns and the other group immediately paused in their firing, wondering where the deafening and concussive boom had just come from.
The next Warren Miller film titled “Dynasty” premiers in the months of October, November and December all across the country. One of the features of this year’s film is a segment on the Monoskier-X event at the latest Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. Check it out and you might see me flying off of some huge jumps. You can get more information about the film including viewing locations at www.skinet.com/warrenmiller.
I just got back from one of the best camps ever. I travelled with the team from Challenge Aspen to Hintertux, Austria where we had two weeks of slalom and GS training on the Hintertuxer glacier. The conditions were great meaning solid glacial ice with tons of pre-made ruts. The glacier, it turns out, is rapidly melting. I was here about 4 years ago and we could ski much further down then we can now. There are many little streams running over and under the glacier, carrying away ice that probably has been building up for at least hundreds of years. Hintertux is still an epic place, but I think that it might have to advertise mountain biking a few summers from now instead of skiing.
I learned some very valuable lessons this camp, mainly that everything I have learned about ski racing is wrong. Allow me to explain. Usually there is a fine line between turning high and early enough to make sure you make the gate and are still able to make the next one and going direct enough so that you don’t travel an unnessesary distance from gate to gate. In reality, the more direct you go at the next gate, the faster your time will be, high and early be damned. I found that if I went super direct at the gates of a course and ripped a turn just barely before the gate, and put as much pressure as I possibly could into the turn, the faster my time was. Absolutely rediculous. If you have no idea of the fundamentals of ski racing, what I just described is usually what your coaches spend hours demanding that you not do.
We also spent lots of time going on very long pushes and doing workouts. The pushes were usually tons of fun, except the day we had to go on a road that went through a cow pasture (there are lots of cows in Hintertux), and our wheels and subsequently us got covered in bovine excrement. Delicious.
This is the view from my hotel towards the Hintertuxer Gletscherbahn.
The town of Tux. Everything is very green because it is sprayed every fall with liberal amounts of liquified bovine excrement.
Me at the Walfischmaul, or Whale’s jaws. This was along one of our long pushes up the mountain side.
My teammate performing surgery on his skis after he stripped the screw heads in an attempt to take the bindings off.
I just got back from a conditioning camp at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We had a week of gym workouts, strength testing, bloodwork, body composition analysis, and mentoring of young up and coming racers. I unfortunately have no photos of this camp, so I will try to explain everything.
The gym workouts are just what you might think. We go to the pumpatorium, reach our full pump-tential, then leave. It can be a bit intimidating working out with athletes from other olympic sports, especially wrestlers or female weightlifters. Not only can they do about 40 pull ups and not even be winded, but the girls look like they could snap you like a twig, with their pinkie.
Strength testing was to see how much weight or how many repititions or how far we could push ourselves in a variety of excersizes. I was happy to find out that I am doing better than this time last year.
Blood work is hardly ever fun, especially when the person drawing the blood can either not find a vein, or having found one, just can’t seem to stick the harpoon in there after the 5th try.
The body composition analysis was really fun. We got to go to the Air Force Academy and use their DEXA scan machine, which blasts you with radiation and can measure all the different types of tissue in your body and where they are located. You can also see your bones, and my bone structure still amazes me a little, as there is no connection between lumbar 1 and my hips. I did find out, however, that because of my 3ft height, I am less than 1 point from maxing out the body mass index scale, and therefore am morbidly obese.
The last few days of the camp overlapped with a development camp with young racers who were just beginning their ski racing experience. We showed them the kinds of workouts we do to get in shape and told them all about the trials and tribulations of skiing competitively. We all got to sit through yet another lecture from USADA (US anti-doping agency) where we were all given about an hour of propaganda explaining how USADA comes in at the elite level and dictates how you must notify them at all times what and where you are, as well as what you can and cannot eat or do to your body. I hope the kids know what they are getting into, at least the ones that didn’t fall asleep during the lecture.
I recently took a trip down to Bristol, Connecticut to do a couple of interviews with ESPN at their fancy smancy headquarters. The HQ looks more like a college campus, but with way more satellite dishes. I did my interviews on ESPN First Take and ESPN News, alongside fellow paralympian Erin Popovitch, a swimmer who had appeared to have won all the medals possible in the last paralympics (something like 7 or 8). We both got tours of the ESPN campus where we got to see where they record all their programs and do all the video and sound processing to make everything look polished and professional.
During the tour our guide was telling us about all the different programs on TV and all the commercials that were shot on their campus for the programs. I rarely watch TV, however, and I almost never flip to any ESPN channel, so I had no idea what they were talking about. I think ESPN assumes that if you are a guy my age you watch ESPN religiously and are up to date with all the players and teams of American sports, especially football.
The interviews went well, meaning I didn’t freeze up and stop talking all together, but its very hard to get used to being in front of a camera that is recording your image and voice for millions of viewers. The hosts of the programs were way too smooth in how they spoke and their hair was beyond perfect, which I found a bit intimidating, as I need to concentrate a great deal to talk smoothly and my hair usually puts Einstein’s bad hair days to shame. I got through it, though, and said most of what I needed to say.
I like pretending to be a big deal.
What the cameras don’t capture is a wiring disaster waiting to happen.
Another set, except this one has a lot of computer workstations in the background to show the viewers how hard everyone is working to give them up to minute updates.
Me posing next to some famous basketball player (he really is pushing 7 feet), the host of First Take, and Erin.
Me with Erin and Steve Raymond, one of the VPs of ESPN, co-chair of SkiTAM (US Adaptive Ski Team annual fundraiser), and chef de mission for the 2010 US Paralympic team.
I just got done with two training camps at Mt. Hood, Oregon where I had two weeks of Super-G and two weeks of Slalom and GS. The last two weeks we had very hot weather and it wasn’t unusual to be skiing when it was mid 70’s. The snow was melted many feet in a day and we eventually couldn’t even ski to the bottom.
This is Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake. The tiny block of snow in the middle of the mountain is the Palmer snow field, where we train.
This is the top of the snowfield and our GS training course.
This is me and a guy named Fuxi. I think he is Austrian and he owns two ski shops in Government Camp (the town at the base of Mt. Hood). He is very animated and creative in the way he gets you to come into his shop and buy something. He starts by offering you an amazing deal on something you may or may not want, then once you go inside to investigate, he leads you all over the store and if he catches you eying something of interest, he pronounces that he has yet another amazing deal and amazing price for you. It really gets amusing when he spots another customer behind you and proceeds to sell the same product at either half or twice the price he just offered you. Regardless, he does seem to be doing well, and I even got some free socks from him.
Tyler Walker of the US Adaptive Ski Team, won the World Championship for Downhill last week at the World Cup Finals held at Whistler, BC. A field of 130 athletes from 30 countries competed at the World Cup Finals sponsored by the IPC (International Olympic Committee). The finals are usually held at the Olympic venue in the year preceding the Paralympics.
Tyler finished 5th in the downhill race, but prior first place wins in Sestriere, Italy placed Tyler in first place for the overall World Champion in Downhill. Tyler crashed in the Super G, finished 11th in the GS and 14th in Slalom. The United Sates won third in the overall Nation Rating. Canada was first, followed by Austria. Competition was stiff in every race with close times in all events.
US Adaptive Team Member Chris Devlin-Young from Campton won the World Championship for Super G.
Tyler competes in the US Adaptive Alpine National Championship races next week in Winter Park which is the final race of the season. Intensive training and camps follow throughout the spring, summer and fall before next years season leading to the 2010 Paralympics at Whistler which starts in Vancouver at the opening ceremonies on March 12, 2010.
Tyler Walker is a member of the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team and the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team. He won three 2013-14 World Cup globes: Overall, as well as for Speed and Slalom events. He is a national and international sit-ski champion in several alpine disciplines as well as a 2006 and 2010 Paralympian and a three-time X-Games gold medalist.
Tyler graduated in 2008 from the University of New Hampshire with a dual major in geography and international affairs, with minors in political science and German. He currently lives and trains in Franconia, New Hampshire.