Weather hampers Huntsman Cup
Arly Velasquez injured himself in a mountain biking accident in 2001, landing on his head after a jump during a downhill race and breaking his back.
Doctors, not understanding the severity of his injury, had him try to sit down.
"When I sat down, everything collapsed on my spinal cord," he said.
Now he’s paralyzed from the waist down, but that hasn’t stopped him from making his mark in the world of sports.
Velasquez, who competes for Mexico, has won the handcycling national championship in Mexico every year since 2009. Now he is trying to dominate the world of winter sports as well.
He won his first gold medal in a sit-ski super G event in Kimberly, Canada, earlier this year. With a taste for gold, he’s looking to get back to the top of the podium.
"It makes me very proud," he said. "It was the first gold, but not the last one."
Competing at the Huntsman Cup at Park City Mountain Resort this week, Velasquez is trying to become the slalom and giant slalom champion.
The Huntsman Cup, featuring more than 60 athletes from more than 10 countries, is a series of giant slalom and slalom races divided into three categories: visually impaired, standing class and sitting class. The groups are further divided by gender and level of disability.
"I had a really good experience and had the fastest run of the men in the first slalom," he said.
He was disqualified after missing a gate at the end of the course. But that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing a championship.
"Tomorrow there’s another slalom, so we’ll see how it goes," he said.
Spotty weather conditions and less-than-ideal snow have hampered the Huntsman Cup this week, but officials are hoping to finish the event today.
"Conditions are variable for sure," Erik Petersen, the head of competition for North America for the International Paralympic Committee, said. "The big thing we have to concern ourselves with first and always is the safety of the athletes."
But for Velasquez, who spends his winters in Park City, it’s nice to be home for an event.
"I feel so comfortable with no stress at all," he said. "I know all the people around here, so I get a lot of good vibes from them. The locals are really cool."
Petersen said Park City is always a great stop for events.
"With the (National Ability Center) here, they’re always looking at promoting the sport," he said.
When the ski season is over, Velasquez will head back to Mexico to try to defend his handcycling title once again.
"I always have to go back to assure my position," he said.
Park City Mountain Resort is scheduled to start limited summer operations on Saturday, including the operation of PayDay lift for hikers and bikers.