FRANCONIA — Two alpine skiers from Cannon Mountain, Chris Devlin-Young and Tyler Walker, were once coach and protégé and now are teammates and competitors at the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
The games commence with an opening ceremony that will be shown live today on NBCSN and rebroadcast at 1 p.m. Saturday on NBC. Also Saturday, shown live at 1 a.m. on NBCSN will be the first of the four contests featuring Devlin-Young and Walker.
A resident of Bethlehem, Devlin-Young, 52, is, according to TeamUSA.org, the most experienced of the alpine athletes, having qualified for seven games and competed in five of them.
Devlin-Young was paralyzed from the knees down and partially paralyzed below his waist following a plane crash in 1982 while he was serving in Alaska with the U.S. Coast Guard.
One of four current alpine Paralympians who served their country, Devlin-Young won a gold medal in slalom in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway, and a gold medal in 2002 in Salt Lake City in Super G where he also won a silver medal in downhill as a mono-skier. Devlin-Young won a silver at Torino, Italy, in 2006.
Devlin-Young said via email that though these are his fifth Paralympics, “I am just as proud and excited now as I was the first time representing my country. I will enter this race like any other I have done. Focus on the process, get a good course inspection, warm up like always, relax in the start area and turn on full race mode as I go through the start wand.”
At Sochi, Devlin-Young will compete in the men’s sitting class versus a field that includes Walker, 27. Last month, Walker, a 2004 graduate of Bethlehem’s Profile High and a 2008 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, won the overall championship in the men’s sitting class at the International Paralympic Committee Alpine World Cup Final in Tarvisio, Italy.
Katie Branham, assistant communication manager for the U.S. Paralympics, said the men will compete in the downhill, Super G, slalom and super combined; Walker is also entered in the giant slalom.
As for going head-to-head with Walker, Devlin-Young said, “Tyler and I are the best of friends. I am very proud of the phenomenal athlete he has become and honored to be representing the United States of America with him and all my Paralympic teammates.”
Walker, born with lumbar sacral agenesis, had both legs amputated at the knees when he was 4.
Although he’s among the most mature members of the U.S. Paralympic team — the oldest is alpine skier Mark Bathum of Mercer Island, Wash., who is 55 — Devlin-Young doesn’t see age as an impediment.
“To remain at the top of any sport takes commitment and talent, I have been blessed with both. The gift of skiing was given to me 30 years ago, and I feel everyday that I must give that gift to those around me and all those who have not found Paralympic alpine skiing. Helping my teammates and coaching newer athletes keeps me young. Winning helps, too.”
A World Cup champion and a 10-time U.S. national champion, Devlin-Young founded and operated the New England Adaptive Ski Team at Loon Mountain with his wife, Donna.
Devlin-Young thanked his family, especially his wife, as well as his many supporters, adding he’s proud to represent his country and New Hampshire, which has been his adopted home for 17 years.
He said that he was also honored to represent Adaptive Sports Partners at Cannon, of which he was named ski ambassador “to the world community. I love living in New Hampshire, and if you can ski Cannon, you can anywhere!”