Feb 3, 2014 4:40 PM by Maddie Garrett
The Winter Olympic games are about to start in a few days, on February 6th. Right after that are the Paralympics. These athletes race down the same courses, compete at the same level, only they do it all with a disability.
One of the gold medalists headed to Sochi this year is Colorado Springs' own Allison Jones. She'll be competing in alpine skiing, on one leg.
"There are very few athletes that can do what she can do," said her coach, Kevin Jardine.
Jardine, the High Performance Director for Paralympic Skiing and Snowboarding, isn't just talking about her speed on the slopes. Jones ski races, competes in cycling, and Sochi will make her seventh Paralympic games.
"I started my Paralympic career with the Salt Lake City Winter Paralympics in 2002 where I won two silvers and it's been non-stop ever since," said Jones.
You could really say her whole life has been non-stop. Jones grew up with a disability, she was born with a birth defect and her right leg ends about mid-thigh.
But that hasn't slowed her down one bit.
"I had a lot of opportunities when I was young to realize I could do everything I wanted to do, it's just a matter of figuring out the little details on how to do it," said Jones.
She got her start on the slopes at just five years old. She hasn't stopped since.
"(My mom) Put one ski on me, drug me up the hill, pointed me down the hill and let go. As a five year old I thought it was amazing and awesome. And my mom didn't realize what she had started," Jones explained.
Three years later she was competing on a ski race team, and 20 years later Jones is one of the best alpine ski racers in the world.
Her coach has been the whole ride, he started coaching her at eight years old.
"A lot of hard work, a lot of determination that's gone into it," said Jardine.
Sochi might be her last Winter Paralympic games.
"I'm going to make sure that I go out in style and at least have fun and do my best," said Jones.
After years of racing on the slopes and on the track, Jones knows it's not all about physical ability, even though that is a big part. Sometimes it's more about mental strength.
"Relax mentally and be able to focus on each run and have a good time," said Jones on how she approaches each race.
Jardine said through so many races in skiing and cycling, she's mastered both the mental and physical aspects of competition.
"She always does well at big events, that's not easy to do, there's a lot of pressure," said Jardine.
So how different are the Paralympics from the Olypmics? Allison said, not much.
"We race as hard, we go down the same slopes, we're not, it's not any easier, we still have to train and be physically ready for the race, the only difference is we're doing it with a physical disability," she explained.
They don't like to compare themselves to able bodied athletes, but in some aspects, you could say the Paralympics are more challenging.
"It is an elite sport, they are racing faster than 99% of people can ski down the hill anywhere in the world," said Jardine.
Some people might call athletes like Jones an inspiration. But Allison remains humble, saying she finds inspiration in others around her, every day.
"It's awesome to see people out there challenging themselves, whether they're racing or on the bunny slope, they're out there having fun, they're trying new things," said Jones.
And she'll be trying for the gold come March.
KOAA will be sure to track Jones' progress in Sochi, along with the rest of Team USA.
Photo Credit: United States Paralympics
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