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On Track to Win

Pat Parnell '15, a member of the Colby-Sawyer men's Alpine ski team and the U.S. Paralympic team from Columbia, Conn., had such an incredible first year that he was featured in Sports Illustrated's March 26 “Faces in the Crowd” column.

Parnell, an Environmental Studies major, was born without his full left femur. He is the first adaptive skier to train with the Chargers.

Parnell is the U.S. adaptive slalom national champion, and in March, 2012, he earned a fifth-place finish in the slalom at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup held at Winter Park Resort in Winter Park, Colo., making him the top U.S. finisher in the slalom.

Parnell told Ski Racing magazine that he believes “training with the Chargers has given me an advantage in adaptive events because the courses we train are a lot more challenging, more turny, and have more terrain in them. When I go to disabled races, the courses are a lot easier than I'm used to… What I like most about training with the team is that they motivate me to push myself harder and to ski faster because I want to be right there in the mix with those guys. They're all really supportive of what I'm doing…they're rooting for me.”

They have a lot to root for. Parnell's goal is to make it to the 2014 Sochi Paralympics in Russia.

Here's what else Parnell shared with Ski Racing magazine.

As a three-track athlete, Pat Parnell carves all his turns on one ski with the support of an outrigger in each arm. He has a number of explanations he conjures up when people ask why he has only one leg, from shark attacks in the ocean to being run over by a tank. The truth of the matter is that he was born with a condition called proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD) that prevented the full development of his left femur, and he uses a prosthetic for walking. But because he does not have an anatomically supportive hip socket, it makes more sense in ski racing to forgo the use of a prosthetic device and to ski on just one leg. Although he has considered newer prosthetic technologies, Parnell says, “I think I've got a pretty good thing going with the one ski.”

At the age of 12, Parnell signed up for an adaptive race camp and was hooked on the competition by the afternoon of the first day. He has since competed in both disabled and able-bodied events including slalom, giant slalom and speed races. He has run downhill twice at U.S. Nationals and competed in super combined events as well.

Excerpted and reprinted with permission from “One-track Mind” by C.J. Feehan, published in Ski Racing magazine's March 12, 2012 issue.