From Jan. 2013 to Feb. 2014, the 14 months leading up to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, "14 for 14" will profile 14 athletes who hope to make the U.S. team for the Games. Visit USParalympics.org on the 14th of each month for the latest "14 for 14".
My name is Stephen Lawler. On Aug. 6, 1990, I was born with L2-5 Spina Bifida. I have used a wheelchair for most of my life but have never considered myself disabled. In 2014, I hope to compete at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games as a monoskier for Team USA.
Here are 14 things you need to know as a strive toward Sochi:
1. I started skiing at 10 years old.
I first went skiing with my mom and grandmother. They said I thought it was a sled and I just went straight down the hill.2. Racing is in my blood.
My dad was a famous rally car racer. He won the 1998 U.S. Championships and was on the cover of a Nintendo 64 video game. I like to think I was born to race, just on skis.
3. I skied in high school.
A native of Vermont, I was the first adaptive ski racer in the state to represent a high school ski team in competition. My sophomore year, I led the men's team to the state championship. I was named captain my senior year. This gave me my first taste of ski racing and lead me to my dream of being on the U.S. team.
4. I've been in a movie.
When I was 13, I filmed an educational skiing movie with an extreme skier Glen Plake. The Snow-Monsters movie is still being played today at the ski area in Breckenridge, Colo.
5. Freedom and maple syrup.
I am from Vermont, which has the state motto of "Freedom and unity". Can you guess what is also from Vermont? That's right, Ben and Jerry's ice cream and of course, the best maple syrup in the world. I get my maple syrup from my grandmother's next door neighbors, so you know it is fresh.6. My second home is Colorado.
Even though I love Vermont, I can't see myself leaving Colorado, where I live now to train for the Paralympic Winter Games. I travel all over the world skiing and Colorado has some of the best powder I have ever been on. All of the sunny days are awesome as well.
7. I get to live at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Last summer, I spent the off season training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. I feel that it helped me this past season and I am excited to go back this summer to improve for the coming season. It's a big one.
8. I love Kiwis.
My favorite place that I have been able to go to while on the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing Team is definitely New Zealand. The mountains are amazing and it has some of the best scenery I have ever seen. The people are friendly. And rugby, their favorite pastime, is a pretty cool sport.
9. I am not the cleanest person.
If you are roommates with me when I am traveling, you'll notice my side of the room is always messy. Sorry to those who have been my roommate or will be my roommate. Tyler Walker has to deal with this all summer at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, where we'll be bunking for off-season training.
10. I am a huge sports fan.
If there is a game on TV, I am usually watching it. My favorite teams are the New York Giants, the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins.
11. I accomplished my goal in 2011.
I made the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing Team in 2011 at the age of 20. It was a longtime goal of mine to compete for Team USA. I hope to make my first U.S. Paralympic Team in 2014. I plan on being on the U.S. Paralympics Team for many competition and Games to come.
12. My breakthrough came in 2013.
Up until this year, my best results were Top 10 finishes in the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Cups. This season at my first IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships, I finished second in downhill in La Molina, Spain. It was one of three medals won by Team USA in the event.13. I'm a full-time athlete.
I am lucky that alpine skiing is my full-time job. Because of my relationship with Juniper Networks, I can afford all of the equipment that is necessary for me to train and perform to the best of my ability without having to work 40 hours off-the-slopes.
14. Thanks, mom.
My mom has always been a big part of my skiing. When I was in high school, she would wake up early to drive me to all of my practices and races. She was funding my whole skiing career for a while. If I hadn't had her support, I would not be where I am today in my career, less than a year away from making my first U.S. Paralympic Team.