Three members of Team USA going to the Paralympic Games at Sochi, Russia in March, competed in the 34th Empire State Winter Games presented by Hannaford Supermarkets last weekend. More than 1,400 athletes were registered and took part in the ESWG events held over four days.
Paralympians Augusto “Goose” Perez, Omar Bermejo and Bryan Price were among the athletes who participated in the adaptive events that were part of the annual ESWG sports festival staged in the Tri-Lakes region. Adaptive Alpine was held Saturday, Feb. 7 and a country skiing sprint was one of the activities at the Sports Fest that evening. An adaptive biathlon took place Sunday, Feb 8 at the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
The adaptive cross country competition took place at the Olympic Speed Skating Oval in Lake Placid, where Eric Heiden won five Olympic gold medals in 1980. ESWG Committee member, Jeff Erenstone, proprietor of Mountain Orthotics and Prosthetics in Lake Placid and a cross country officianado, laid out a 300-meter course featuring a banked turn right on the center island of the oval. Spectators watched able-bodied men’s and women’s sprints, and a spectacular adaptive race featuring five sits skiers and one stand-up athlete. The race was followed by an awards ceremony and a sled hockey demonstration match on the oval.
“This showcase event in the center of Lake Placid with a live audience is the culmination of three years of effort, and the cooperation of both ORDA and the Empire State Winter Games organizing committee,” Erenstone said. “Adaptive sports have arrived in Lake Placid for all to see, feel and enjoy.”
Jay Rand and his race organizers at New York Ski Educational Foundation and Don Dew of Whiteface Adaptive Snowsports School set two adaptive slalom courses at Whiteface Mountain Saturday for the Alpine events. The morning race on the Mixing Bowl trail featured a field of five assisted adaptive athletes with family and friends and very special awards ceremony.
The afternoon venue on the Bear trail at Whiteface drew 17 adaptive athletes, some of whom may be Paralympians in the future. Windham Mountain’s Adaptive Sports Foundation sent 15 athletes who competed with an athlete from Greek Peak in central New York and Alyssa Lynch, a Lake Placid native and veteran of adaptive Alpine racing at Whiteface.
Howard Horowitz, of Wilmington and New Rochelle, ESWG Committee member and head of the ESWG Adaptive Committee, said “This year’s Alpine adaptive event fielded a record number of athletes and we expect more in 2015.”
Horowitz said the athletic competition is just a part of the reason for staging the events with the ESWG
“The racing is great,” he said, “but it’s the whole atmosphere and the feelings these kids and young adults get from being here in Lake Placid and racing on the Olympic venues that is truly special to behold. Just wonderful!”
Horowitz and Erenstone said that many people, from ORDA employees to volunteers, contributed to the success of the able-bodied and adaptive events at the 2014 ESWG.
Perez, Bermejo and Price are scheduled to compete 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, March 7-16. They were able to train and compete in Lake Placid at the ESWG due to the cooperation of the United States Olympic Committee, U.S. Paralympics, the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid and Adaptive Spirit, which supports U.S. National Paralympic Ski Team.
For more information on the 2014 ESWG, visit empirestatewintergames.com.