In December 2008, Jacqui Kapinowski was nominated to represent the U.S. at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Curling Team. In addition to curling, she is a competitive cyclist and has also participated in numerous marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons.
Kapinowski was diagnosed with a neurological disease called Stiff Person Syndrome at age 39, after suffering from seizures and painful spasms. Walking became very difficult and painful, so she began to use a wheelchair for all daily activities.
After working hard to overcome the obstacles of her disease, Kapinowski earned a bronze medal with the U.S. team at the Wheelchair Curling World Championships only four months after first getting involved in the sport. U.S. Paralympics recently spent some time with Kapinowski to learn about her amazing story.
U.S. Paralympics: How did you become interested in curling?
JK: I actually became interested in wheelchair curling at a wheelchair racing competition. My teammate Jimmy Jam (James Joseph) approached meabout becoming involved in the sport. I was somewhat familiar with curling because of my Scottish family background. I decided to look into the sport by attending a curling club and was hooked as soon as I threw the first stone.
U.S. Paralympics: What would you consider to be your favorite aspect of the sport?
JK: The team and the coach, without a doubt. They are my best friends and part of my family.
U.S. Paralympics: Would you consider it an advantage to be the only female member of the team?
JK: They [the boys] are the females. They are very high maintenance but I love them. My teammates are practically like family and they are very protective of me, as if I'm their sister.
U.S. Paralympics: Rigorous training must take up a majority of your time. How would you describe your preparation for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games?
JK: I recently had five days of training in Green Bay. In between training for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, I continue wheelchair racing and cycling in order to stay fit. In August I will be in Green Bay again, and then I will travel to Norway and Scotland in October for more training. Also my coach has the team preparing psychologically. My teammates and I are constantly reading sports psychology books in order to strengthen our mental game.
U.S. Paralympics: What goals do you hope to achieve when competing in the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver?
JK: Do you even have to ask? We want the gold of course! I want to give 110% in training and competition. I also want to represent my teammates, the USA, and myself to the best of my ability.