|03-23-2009, 04:36 PM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2009
Disabled Skier from Canada Focuses on 2010 Paralympics
Disability Sports : Paralympics : 2010 Winter Paralympics
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By WHISTLER, B.C. - 2009-01-18 </EM>
When Matt Hallat heard that the Paralympics were coming to Canada, he knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So the Paralympic skier from Coquitlam, B.C., packed up and moved to Whistler to focus on training for the 2010 Paralympic Games, putting his university education on hold to pursue the podium. It's a goal the 24-year-old has spent a long time thinking about.
"When I was 12 years old, I wanted to go to the Olympics," said Hallat. "When I found out about the Paralympics, I knew I could make it happen. I still remember writing papers about my goals in elementary school."
Hallat was just six when he lost his right leg to cancer and while he acknowledges that his disability is part of his story, he wants to be recognized for his athletic achievements more than anything. (Adaptive skiing)
"Being athletes is the biggest thing disabled athletes want to be noticed for more than anything else," said Hallat. "We do have an inspirational aspect to our stories but we are just people who've dedicated our lives to sporting achievement."
The Games open March 12, 2010 in Vancouver and Whistler and Canadian officials have put a lot of effort into recognizing the Olympics' less famous cousin, providing Own the Podium funding and beefing up national teams in an effort to finish third in the overall medal tally in 2010. At the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy, Canada was sixth in the standings with 13 medals.
Hallat made his Paralympic debut in Turin, though he was a long way from the podium, finishing 31st in the slalom, 32nd in the giant slalom and 37th in the super-G.
But his results this season have been promising. Thriving on increased funding and support staff for the Canadian Para-Alpine team, Hallat recently finished second and third in two giant slaloms in an early season race in Colorado and admits his biggest challenge is the "head game."
"Historically the first races of the season have not been very good for me," said Hallat. "Every year I head in, not knowing where I will stack up against the rest, anxiously I push myself out of the start gates and rarely make it to the finish. But this year was different."
Armed with a clear focus on 2010 and new objectives for the season, Hallat says he's determined to show his competitors what he can do but knows it won't be easy.
"Skiing is a sport of pushing your limits and you need to break through new barriers each day in order to be on the podium," said Hallat, who joined the World Cup team when he was 18 and is a veteran on the circuit. "Anxiety, fear, and doubt are always a big battle. You hope that your preparation has been good enough to set you up where you want to be, but you never know until you cross the finish line."
The slalom and giant slalom were the only two alpine events at the first Paralympic Winter Games, which were held in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, in 1976. Today disabled athletes compete in all four alpine events - downhill, super-G, slalom and giant slalom and do it on the same course that is used for the Olympic women's competition.
Hallat competes in all four disciplines and is currently ranked 15th in the World Cup super-G standings. He knows there's room for improvement and says the pressure of competing on home snow in just over a year is a big motivator.
"There is pressure that comes with competing in your hometown," he said. "But that pressure can help accelerate you. It will be a huge support to have people standing on sidelines in 2010 cheering me on. I am focused on that day."