Grooming Paralympians at the National Ability Center
When the world’s best Paralympic skiers and snowboarders slide into the gates this March for the 2022 Winter Paralympics, chances are good that they are National Ability Center alums (discovernac.org). The local nonprofit’s High Performance Team is one of just two development programs in the country for alpine and snowboarding athletes on the path to international-level competition.
In 2018, four of the NAC’s competition team athletes brought home a collective seven medals from PyeongChang. For Beijing, the program’s Paralympic contenders are predominately in the “younger stages” of their careers, according to head alpine coach Erik Leirfallom. “We’re not likely to see as many medals per se, but we’re going to have more participation, which will be great for their exposure, to get more experience for the next Games,” he says.
Since the NAC’s inception in 1985, it has always had a competitive element to its programming alongside a slew of opportunities for athletes of all abilities. With a training base at Park City Mountain Resort, currently 27 athletes (roughly 10 of whom are full-timers) from around the country are making a run at high-level competition, thanks to the organization’s adaptive sports facilities, coaches, and training. Current NAC-groomed Beijing hopefuls on the ski racing side of the equation are Andrew Haragehy, Ravi Drugan, Jesse Keefe, Saylor O’Brien, and Tyler McKenzie. Keep an eye out for snowboarder Thomas Wilson, too.