Jason Myers crosses the finish line at the bottom of the race course at Snow Creek in Weston, Mo., so fast that you almost can’t tell he’s sitting on his ski.
Just like the many alpine skiers competing March 7-16 at the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, Myers' equipment is adapted to accommodate physical challenges. And with more practice, he dreams of one day perhaps being at the Paralympics himself.
Since Myers broke his back in an ATV accident in November 2010, he has used a wheelchair to get around.
While skiing, he sits about 3 feet above the ground, in a seat secured tightly on a shock absorber attached to one ski. The sport classifies the ski as a "carving ski" for groomed terrain, and is shaped kind of like an hourglass. It allows him to maximize the use of his upper body (see an image of the ski below.)
Myers grew up in the tiny hamlet of Agency, Mo., just outside St. Joseph. The 31-year-old says he was an active kid, and he loved all sports — especially basketball and football. He loved the competition and he loved to win.
But sports as he knew them ended when the ATV flipped over on him, paralyzing him from the waist down. After two weeks in a local hospital, Myers was transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colo., which specializes in spinal cord injuries.
It wasn’t until he got home that the impact of his limitations hit him.
“I got home and didn’t know what to do,” Myers says. “It’s hard to find anybody else paralyzed … hard to get connected (in St. Joseph.) Finally, I decided I’m gonna find something to do.”
Last summer, he started to play tennis and a friend told him about Smithville Lake in Clay County, Mo., where he took up water skiing. There he met Jenny Karnes, who works with Midwest Adaptive Sports, a program to assist athletes with physical disabilities.
Karnes enticed Myers to try snow skiing.
He started on the bunny slopes but quickly got bored and graduated to the much steeper and higher race course.
“Now it’s my fifth or sixth time,” Jason says, and he plans to continue. "I’d love to pursue it . We’ll see where it goes. I wanna go faster, wanna beat my time. I love racing.”
Midwest Adaptive Sports sponsors racing at Snow Creek, which allows athletes like Myers to train for national competitions, or even the Paralympics.
Meanwhile, Myers is happy to be back home in Agency, Mo., the community that raised $20,000 to help him pay his medical bills. He’s running a Jay's Convenience Store, with a menu famous for it’s winning pork tenderloin.
“My grandmother tenderizes and prepares them fresh every day, and I’d put them up against any in the country,” he says.