Steamboat’s Kyle Taulman spreads the good word on adaptive sports during Paralympic Games
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There have always been people there to teach, Kyle Taulman said.
Taulman, a Steamboat Springs sophomore, lost the use of his legs when he was just two years old after a tumor caused a spinal cord injury. There have been people along the way to help him learn to master a wheelchair, learn to hop off a curb and even learn to race on a sit ski.
“You just learn different things from different people as you go through life,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of great guides to help me.”
Taulman traveled last month to the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, serving as an ambassador for American adaptive athletes.
There were plenty of highlights, he said.
He was able to attend the opening ceremonies. He went to the downhill skiing event, the snowboard cross race and a sled hockey game in which the United States blew out Japan, 10-0, en route to a gold medal in the event.
“Honestly, it was awesome,” he said. “The U.S. has a great sled hockey team, and we really just destroyed in that game.”
The best part of the trip, however, wasn’t in any of those events, or even in anything directly related to the actual Paralympics.
Taulman was one of a group of top young American athletes with disabilities selected to work with young South Korean athletes with disabilities, usually on the same slopes where Olympic athletes had been competing only days before.
“I’ve have a lot of great people help me,” Taulman said. “I hope I was able to be that for some of those kids in Korea.”
Taulman has his own long-term plans for the Paralympic Games. He competes with the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park. He’s trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club in the past, but gets much more specific coaching for his sit ski racing in Winter Park.
He travels for half a dozen events a year and only recently returned from the U.S. and Canadian national championships in Mammoth Mountain, California.
His ultimate goal is to compete at the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Just being at the 2018 version helped fuel that fire.
“Being able to be there, instead of watching on TV, that was really awesome, but seeing that atmosphere, it makes you want to go and compete instead of sitting in the crowd,” he said. “Sitting in the crowd was great, but you really want to show what you can do.”
He did get the chance to get out on the snow in South Korea, helping young Koreans with disabilities.
They skied at Phoenix Snow Park, a South Korean resort that wasn’t a venue for the Paralypics, but was for the Olympics, which took place in February. It played host to most of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events and featured a snowboard cross course, a moguls run, a slopestyle course and the halfpipe.
The resort was entirely closed for the Olympics and Paralympics, but Taulman’s crew was allowed up on the slopes. For the most of their trip, they were only allowed on one run, but later, as the Olympic grandstands and other facilities were being disassembled, the resort’s management let them out onto more terrain.
“We got to ski for a few days with some Korean children with disabilities.We were peer mentors for them, getting to know them, teaching them how to ski. They’d never been skiing before,” Taulman said.
American instructors were also there working with adults and the purpose of the trip for all was to show just what was possible.
“They don’t have the sort of access to adaptive programs like we do here,” Taulman said. “A big part of the trip was to introduce people to adaptive sports and try to spark adaptive sports in Korea.”
Being in Korea was pretty great, he said. He got to ski the Olympic halfpipe, the same one Shaun White, Chloe Kim and Arielle Gold rode to Olympic medals.
“They won their medals just a few days before and then I got to ski it for fun,” he said.
The best part of the trip, though, didn’t have anything do with the halfpipe.
“We’re just so used to having adaptive sports, but a lot of those kids had never thought about it,” he said. “To see us there skiing, moving around in our chair independently, helping out other people, that transcends language and show them, ‘Just because I have a disability, I’m not confined to sitting at home. I can get out there and do something.’”
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