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February 7, 2003

Nelson to hit the slopes in Deaflympics

From: Kent Good Times Dispatch, CT - 07 Feb 2003

By:Bob Deakin February 07, 2003
Kent resident Austin Nelson is discovering that the hard work he has put into his skiing career is finally paying off.
The 17-year-old member of the United States Deaf Ski Team will represent the nation in the World Deaflympics in Sundsvall, Sweden, at the end of the month.
Mr. Nelson has moderate-to-severe hearing loss in both ears and is a senior at the Green Mountain Valley School, a private ski academy in Waitsfield, Vt.
The Deaflympics, conducted under the auspices of the International Committee of Deaf Sports, began in Paris in 1924 and are held every four years. One thousand athletes from 25 countries will compete in the 15th Winter Deaflympics from Feb. 26 to March 9.
The son of two avid skiers, Janet and Jack Nelson, Mr. Nelson started swooshing down the slopes before age 2 and was something of a hotshot before he could tie his shoes. He now excels in slalom events, particularly giant slalom, which is the title he will compete for at the Deaflympics.
He just returned from competing in the Easter Cup Super Giant Slalom at Sugarloaf in Maine, but didn't fare as well as he hoped. It was one of the first "Super G" races of his young career.
"I'm extremely psyched to compete," he said of the Deaflympics. "It will be the experience of a lifetime. I hope that I do well and place in the top 10 in all events and gain further respect for the sport of ski racing and for the deaf community."
He must tune his skis every night, which involves cleaning, sharpening and waxing, and his workout regimen includes extensive running, swimming, jumping, biking, stomach strengthening exercises and weight lifting-all to increase strength, speed and endurance on the mountain.
"The core [stomach] is one of the most important parts of the body in order to succeed in ski racing," he stressed. "The main goal of dry-land training is to prepare the body for the ski season. There are many other goals of the training, including coordination, speed, decreasing the lactate threshold and increasing my VO2 max [the amount of oxygen that can be removed from circulating blood and used by the working tissues during a specified period]."
He will go to the U.S. Olympic Training center at Lake Placid, N.Y. later this month to train with the U.S. Deaf Ski Team and must compete in time trials to determine which events he will compete in at the Deaflympics.
Mr. Nelson began his competitive career when he was 11 and qualified for the finals in his category three years ago at Sugarbush.
"I qualified for the JIII Finals at Sugarbush and that was a huge deal for me," he said. "It was [just] a step down from the Junior Olympics."
The experience was frustrating, but he gained some respect from his contemporaries in the process. "Minutes before my first Super G run, I broke my thumb and couldn't compete in the JIII Finals, but the injury didn't stop me from skiing since I skied with one pole."
Aside from skiing, the athlete plays varsity soccer in the fall at Green Valley and stays with a rigorous training program all year long. September starts with dr- land training to build his strength and endurance for the slopes once the snow arrives. He keeps a strict schedule throughout the school year with most of his time out of the classroom focused on skiing.
Aside from athletics, he's doing well with the books. He is currently focused on calculus and physics classes and studies journalism, advanced composition, business and German. He has also played the violin since a young age. He is readying himself for college next year, but hasn't settled on a major or a school. He is considering Middlebury and Colby Colleges, and he wishes to continue to ski competitively.
As a member of the U.S. Deaf Ski Team he receives ski wear courtesy of Karbon, but does not have an official sponsor. His success in Sweden could change that.
Mr. Nelson has been an assistant coach for the Mohawk Mountain Ski Team in Cornwall, where his mother has been an instructor. He said that his hearing impairment has little impact when it comes to ski racing, although competitors in the Deaflympics are not allowed to use hearing aids, which has taken a bit of getting used to.
As for inspiration, his idol is Bode Miller, who was a combined silver medallist and giant slalom silver medallist in the 2002 Olympic Games. "Bode is the best-ever American ski racer and possibly the best ski racer in the world, since he is on top of the World Cup Standings," Mr. Nelson said.
Attending the Green Mountain Valley School has been a blessing for the skiing prospect ever since he arrived as a junior.
"I attended Canterbury School my freshman and sophomore years and felt that I wasn't getting enough out of life," he remembers. "I wasn't able to do what I love-ski racing-so I felt that I would be much happier at a school where I could do what I dream of. After attending GMVS for two years, it feels like I have known everyone, including the faculty, for my entire life. I feel extremely comfortable in this environment and couldn't be happier at any other school."
He has a practice routine many would envy. GMVS is in Mad River Valley, 10 minutes away from Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, two of the most prized ski resorts in the Northeast.
Every day the entire school trains and skis at Sugarbush, which is an awesome mountain with lots of snow and very, very few people," he explained. "Never any lift lines!"

©The Kent Good Times Dispatch 2003