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
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.
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
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 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!
Tyler grew up in Franconia, New Hampshire where he developed a great appreciation of the outdoors, especially the mountains. Born without functional use of his legs, he has spent a lifetime adapting to a world filled with obstacles. Finding a passion for ski racing, Tyler competed for the United States for 15 seasons as a member of the US Paralympic Alpine Ski Team. During that time he traveled around the world, pushing the boundaries of adaptive skiing and racing. Tyler competed in the 2006 Torino, 2010 Vancouver, 2014 Sochi and 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games. Achieving many World Cup podiums and titles along the way, including winning the overall World Cup title in 2014, it would take his 4th trip to the Paralympics to earn two silver medals in giant slalom and slalom. Tyler also competed in the Winter X-Games Monoskier-X event, winning gold three times. During his career he found time to attend the University of New Hampshire and earn a dual degree in Geography and International Affairs. At the end of the 2018 season he retired from competitive skiing in order to pursue other career opportunities. Tyler also speaks to corporate and school groups about his experiences in life and competition, passing on lessons learned over a long and often arduous career.