Thursday, April 28, 2016

The opportunity of impossibility

Biathlon and Cross Country skiing saw me adapt, grow, and succeed in its field of competition.  To this day, both sports, especially biathlon, holds a special place in my mind and heart.

However, both sports, also left me motivationally depleted.  While competition and training was challenging, fun, and full of new experiences, the inner workings, rules, and overall culture of the sport was ultimately my downfall.

Imagine an athlete that has decided to make a sport his craft..  He sleeps, lives, and studies that sport, he rejects his possessions and moves to a new place with nothing but a dream of becoming the best..  His family thinks he's crazy, the people around him thinks he's weird, he sleeps on an air mattress, his bank low in funds, and with just enough food to make the same dinner everyday, he keeps going..

The only one that supported him.. His grandfather dies..  In a whirlwind of emotions he has the perfect race..  He is in.

He competes and gives his heart out at the biggest stage, this is the beginning of something great.. 

He keeps going and going..  The mental and physical stress catches up to him and he gets sick.. The saddest part of the story and unbeknownst to him comes with a click.. He asks to be believed in once again..  Not good enough..

In a world where belief is measured by how much money you are worth, stories like his are easily dismissed.

Without the opportunity to be great it is impossible to prove your worth..  

And so, He keeps going..  Finding opportunities..

Enter Triathlon..  And I keep going..

(Listening to "Cut the cord" by Shinedown)

Monday, April 4, 2016

The disability of success

In the world of Paralympic sports, not only do you have to adapt to learn, train, and compete in sports with a disability but you also have to find the support necessary to enable you to do those things in the first place.

For some of us it's easier with prior military service because there are always organizations willing to help, for others a wealthy family can enhance your chances, and for the really unlucky ones you are to fend on your own, but regardless we all find a way to compete.

Speaking of competition, in my own account, competition is what drives me.  When I am competing my disability is non existent, I want to beat other competitors, and I honestly it feels good to pass other able and disabled athletes because it's hard wired into my being to beat others at whatever.

So we find the resources to train and compete, and then we become race junkies going wherever we can to satisfy our addiction to being better than we are expected to be, and then something funny happens, we become good enough to taste and dream about Paralympic competition.

The pitch is simple.. Acquire all the gear, train like mad men with a plan, compete in the races that count and.. Sell your disability to the highest bidder by masking it as inspiration, and if you do that then you can win a medal.. Ironically, at least for me, that's when my disability started.

You see, for years we try to pretend we are not disabled by doing pretty amazing things, but the moment we become Paralympic athletes we also have to prove that our disability is also profitable.  In a system where cash is king, inspiration is easy to sell..  So even if we think we are not disabled, the system that is suppose to abdicate us from the throne of disability is.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eulogy of a great man

Mi Abuelito, mi Héroe, y mi Inspiración:

Desde que yo recuerdo mi Abuelito ha sido el hombre másfuerte, más cariñoso, y más estricto que yo he conocido.  

En México, cuando yo era pequeño, me acuerdo visitar la casa de mis Abuelitos, y me acuerdo sentir un par de emociones diferentes. Por un lado, tenía ganas de jugar con todas las cosas que mi Abuelito tenía como con su máquina de escribir que hacia palabras y que yo me imaginaba que cuando uno escribíaen ella la mente se pegaba en el papel, con su espada decaballería con la cual yo me imaginaba luchando contra piratas en un barco, y también me gustaba ver y leer sus artículos y posters que tenia de cuando él había sido un boxeador y viendo estos yo me creía luchar contra todos aquellos con los cuales el lo hizo tirando puñetazos al aire…

Y por el otro lado, ver a mi Abuelito era también como someterse a una prueba, la prueba de mi madurez como hombre.  Yo tenía que fajarme, peinarme, y tratar de mantenerme limpio durante todo el recorrido desde nuestra casa hasta la de mis Abuelitos.  Cuando él hablaba conmigo me preguntaba quecomo estaba, que si estaba cuidando a mis hermanas y sobrecómo iba en la escuela.  Después de las preguntas, el me decía lo tanto que nos quería, a , a mis hermanas, a mi Mama, y a mi Abuelita.  El siempre, siempre me decía esto. 

Ya cuando tenía más años, y ellos vivían lejos de nuestra casa en Guadalajara, yo me acuerdo que mi Abuelito era un hombre lleno de información, el era como lo que es tener una computadora en estos tiempos.  El me enseño a jugar domino, juegos de baraja como el conquián y el póquer.  Y cuando éljugaba, el jugaba en serio y siempre ganaba.  No creo que haya habido alguien que le hubiera podido ganar alguna vez. El también me daba lecciones sobre la historia y de cómo todo lo que ha pasado se repetirá y también me hablaba sobre lo que yo podía hacer para salir adelante.  

A mi Abuelito Mariano también le gustaba mucho bromear.  Siempre me llamaba diciéndome, “ven, mira esto”, y cuando iba el estaba allí listo y hacia alguna travesura a mi Abuelita, y aunque ella a veces se enojaba para nosotros era muy chistoso.  

Ya cuando nos venimos aquí a Grand Rapids, la relación que yo y mi Abuelito teníamos era una de nostalgia.  Siempre el me decía como le gustaría regresarse para México con todos nosotros y yo no sabía que decirle, lo único que podía contestarle era “si, Abuelito ya vámonos!”.  El se emocionaba tanto que hasta comenzaba a empacar sus cosas.  

Y cuando era hora de terminar nuestra visita en su casa, el nunca nos quería decir adiós, pero cuando nos montábamos dentro del carro, podíamos ver que el salía afuera para vernos partir y se quedaba viéndonos hasta que desaparecíamos en el horizonte todo el tiempo diciéndonos adiós con su brazo.  

Cuando regrese después de mucho tiempo de no haber estado en Grand Rapids, la enfermedad de mi Abuelito ya tenía sus garras clavadas en su mente.  Se le empezó a olvidar todo, y el siempre repetía las mismas preguntas.  Pero había una pregunta en particular que el siempre me hacía y esta pregunta siempre marcara mi vida.  El preguntaba: “Que has hecho con tu vida?” Y si él estuviera aquí ahora, yo podría contestarle: “Abuelito, si yo pudiera llegar a lograr por lo menos una fracción de lo que hiciste y amar como  me amaste, entonces yo creo que mi vida estará completa.”

Mi Abuelito Mariano siempre vivirá dentro de  con su amor y sus palabras.  Y algunas de estas palabras fueron: “El tesoro de nuestra familia ha ido pasando a manos de cada generación…” Yo digo hoy que en nuestra generación, el recuerdo de él con su amor es el tesoro el cual él me había hablado ese día.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Across the world..

The Sochi Paralympics are over and I am a better man, athlete and human being because of it due to the perspective I have gained in all those aspects.

I am a better man because I have afforded my family the opportunity to be proud of me and serve as a role model as my grandfather did, to attest that no matter what happens in life, if a poor, fatherless, immigrant, down on his luck can reach this level of accolades then ANYONE can!

I am a better athlete because I have gained important experience to become better the next time around, I have created bonds with my teammates that will last long after our last competitions are past, and I have shown my coaches the kind of demeanor I have in order to help me become greater.

Most importantly in my opinion, I am a better human being because I was afforded to travel across the world and meet other people that are going through the same situations as all of us..  Wanting to live happily, wanting to love, wanting to belong, wanting to be great, and wanting nothing more than peace.  We should not live in a world where boarders and ideals set by other "people" and enforced by media and ignorance dictate the level of humanity we all have.  We all belong to the world, I am an American, proud to represent my nation, but I am even more proud to be human.

Monday, February 3, 2014

SOCHI-Da! An update and thank you

Being named to represent the United States in the Paralympics is something I strived for the first time I decided to start training like an Olympic athlete.

I remember it was just a few weeks after the amputation of my dominant arm that I was lucky enough to talk to Bryan Boyer (of all places at the Tucson VA) after a check up following my amputation, and he mentioned that there was an opportunity to find rehab doing Biathlon..  Biathlon? Why not give it a chance I said..  Called Marc Mast at the Wood River Ability Program in Ketchum Idaho, packed my bags, and it was on.

Tried it, loved it, and now look at me, in the midst of my second season and already have achieved this level. I am lucky indeed and sometimes I beat myself up for the stupid rookie mistakes I make but when I step back and look at the magnitude of it all, I should be incredibly proud.

I am proud! In this last year I have achieved and experienced things that there's no way I would have done if it wasn't for skiing. First and foremost, I have learned to live and compete with a disability that has allowed me to appreciate life and find what my character is made of, and I have found out that my soul still burns and I love it.

I have also gotten the chance to be a part of an incredible team and community when I came to Maine to start training..  Will Sweetser, Sarah Dominick, Seth Hubbard, and Amber Dodge, my coaches and now friends, have taught me how to train for competitive cross country skiing and biathlon and not only that but to enjoy skiing and be part of something greater, such as being a role model and an inspiration to kids and adults alike, and for that I feel honored and content.

Being a member of MWSC has allowed me to travel to Europe, and Canada and train with athletes such as Kris Freeman, Noah Hoffman, Welly Ramsey, Brandy Stewart, Raleigh Goessling, Katrina Howe, and Sam Tarling, which I learned something from each one of them and I feel extremely thankful to have had the pleasure of skiing with them all.

Two or three workouts each day, with shooting practice in between, healthy mind and body activities, and a whole lot of pain..  That is the price to pay but I could not have done it if it was not for Paul Fitzgerald, and Jeff Steffen at Team Semper Fi..  Those guys are awesome and they gave me the tools to make a run for it and run I will.

When the going went from tough to just painfully hard and especially on those hot summer Maine days, I knew I could always count on my sweet and really kick ass skier herself, my girlfriend Lindsey Hall.  Listening to her every night was the recovery I always needed to go on, and I am forever thankful for her and her family that opened up the doors to their house in order for me to train and afford the training.

Paralympics, parallel to the Olympics..  Not below or above but in the same spectrum of hard work and dedication..  I do not claim to be anywhere in the realm of Olympians and their path to glory just as Olympians can not claim the path to mine..  I am a Paralympian, I might look different, and I might not be as fast as my fellow able-bodied skiers and marksmen, but I have every single intention to being successful at my craft as they are.. John Farra, Rob Rosser, James Upham, Eileen carey, and Bethann Chamberlain, thanks for seeing that in me.

Sochi approaches, and I must say I am extremely excited and nervous..  My Mother Rosa, my two sisters, Edna, and Tania, and Lindsey will be watching from the stands as I achieve greatness..  I am extremely lucky to have a family that would support me this way, and to them and in the name of my true father Mariano which he was always the inspiration that drove my family forward before me, and that I have lost this year to a terrible illness, I dedicate this year's effort and everything that will flourish out of it.. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Accidental patriot: hero of my own soul

People call me a hero..  They give me thanks for fighting for our country.  And I appreciate it..  I love our country and I would do it all over again if I could, however, I am a hero not because I saved someone or acted bravely in combat..  I am a hero because I did not let my circumstances dictate who I would become.
I elected to fight because I knew that if I stayed I would have become a no one.
I was not by myself..  I fought for myself with a lot of people that were fighting for themselves as well, together fighting for a greater purpose that at least in my case was not clearly understood. We became accidental patriots. Heroes of our country we might be, but Heroes of our own soul we are without a doubt.
To this day we still fight..  

Friday, July 26, 2013

A skier in the making..

Rise above expectations..  It's what I would say my purpose of my life is.

Growing up in a very humble and ever changing setting could have left me stripped from accomplishing my dreams, and when I realized that, its when I decided to brake free and make a push to become all that I could be.

I joined the United States Marines when I was still 17 years of age.  10 years later I was considered one of the best amongst the best.  

The Marines were my way of life until a motorcycle accident took what I thought was going to be the rest of my life in just a couple of seconds.  It was time to start dreaming again.  Dreaming of becoming a Paralympic cross country skiing athlete..  To rise again.

I was introduced to the sport of cross country skiing just 4 months after the amputation of my right arm due to the injuries I suffered during the accident.  I loved the sport from the first time I struggled to put on my boots on that snowy day in lake placid.  After that introduction skiing camp which was aimed at physical rehabilitation and not so much at racing I knew I wanted to make skiing a huge part of my life, and so I did.

I started to heavily research cross country skiing training and with the help of various coaches and organizations I put on my very first block of intense training.  After my first summer and fall of cross country skiing training I started to compete on my first races alongside able bodied skiers that have been training way longer than I have and even though I was not as fast as I could be, everyone knew I had the heart, and cheered me on and so I kept going.

Later that racing year I started to compete against other Paralympic athetles and I found out that I was in fact a competitor.  I attended nationals in soldier hollow and I was able to put on a solid performance earning me a couple of first place medals within my division.  Due to that performance I was invited to compete in the next stage of competition in a World Cup in Cable Wisconsin.  There I met the top Paralympics cross country skiing athetles in the world..  I gave it my all and came close.. Close enough to earn me a spot in the US national development team.  All in one year and a half..

In my second year of real training, I have chosen to join the Maine Winter Sports Center ranks in northern Maine in order to possibly reach a higher level of skiing and make the US Paralympic team that will be competing in Sochi Russia in less than a year.  Training will be hard, I am up for it.

There is nowhere else to go but to rise..  There has never been another option in my life..  Rise I will.