U.S. Paralympic Team Gets Crossfit in Carbondale 5

Power, Determination and the Pursuit of the Possible

Crossfit has a reputation as “extreme.” Incredibly challenging, it’s the domain of elite athletes.

Carbondalian Kevin Jardine and his wife Ashley have been Crossfitting for several years. Both are in top physical condition. Kevin, the director of high performance for U.S. Paralympics alpine skiing and snowboarding, decided that the Box at Sopris Crossfit in Carbondale would provide excellent training for his athletes. At his invitation, Roaring Fork Lifestyle watched the U.S. Paralympic team tear it up there in late November.

In mid-workout, the Box felt like it would any on other day, for any other class: seeming chaos! First you feel the music – a loud, motivating wall of sound. You dodge athletes and watch for coaches who pace about, hollering time, encouragement and form corrections.

On this day, however, a yard sale of adaptive equipment was scattered about the Box. Every single athlete was working with a slight modification – even if you didn’t see it. Danielle Umstead, a 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist, has no central vision and is losing peripheral vision. In 2010, she learned that she also has multiple sclerosis. Danielle, who now lives in Winter Park, usually travels with a seeing dog, but her pooch skipped the Crossfit workout.

U.S. alpine mono-skier Andrew Kurka has incredibly muscled arms and shoulders, partly because they must do the work of both arms and legs. A 2005 ATV accident damaged three vertebrae and left him partially paralyzed from the waist down. In the moment, he pedaled ferociously with his arms, his face red and slick with effort. But after the training session, his physical-high smile was a mile wide.

Perhaps this grin was the power engine behind his 70-mph ski racing. Although Kurka wiped out during the 2014 Sochi Paralympics, breaking two vertebrae, he has regained his original speeds. Shortly after his visit here, he captured a silver medal in the 2015 IPC (International Paralympic Committee) alpine season.

With the lithe grace of a dancer, Aspenite Melanie Schwartz cleared two-foot-high box jumps effortlessly – on a single leg! Box jumps – simultaneously leaping with both legs from a standstill onto a platform – are notoriously associated with mental blocks. Some people simply cannot do them! Most women can master 20-inch box jumps, while men average out on the 24-inchers.

The 2015 schedule took these resolute athletes to Canada, Austria, France and Spain last January. March saw them in Japan and Switzerland. By early December, they had been to New Zealand, the Netherlands and Italy. It’s an exhausting lifestyle, but as any of these die-hards will tell you, they live for it!