Laurie Stephens competes in the Women's Super-G - Sitting during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on March 10, 2014.
While COVID-19 has forced Para alpine skier Laurie Stephens to make changes to her normal training, the four-time Paralympian isn’t necessarily worried about losing a step.
Shutdowns during the early stages of the pandemic resulted in an early end to last season with world cup races being cancelled, so this offseason has been an adjustment for the seven-time Paralympic medalist.
“It's been a lot of dry land type training. It’s always good, but not the same as doing actual sports related training,” she said.
Stephens said her dry land training has been the same, but she just hasn’t been able to hit the snow like she would in a normal offseason, as she’s usually able to ski at least once a month during the summer. The several-month hiatus from the slopes has Stephens eager to return to the snow in the coming weeks.
“It made you miss being on snow and in the mountains a lot more. I’m getting really excited to get back to that,” she said.
This long offseason has been different from anything Stephens has experienced, but she said the very nature of her sport gives her the advantage to get back with no hitches in her preparation.
“Skiing is one of those sports where on race day anything can happen. You might have long course holds or weather holds. It's pretty unexpected with all the different aspects of being an outdoor winter sport,” she said. “With this whole situation with COVID, you take it day by day and wait through things to change.”
The next Winter Paralympic Games will be Stephens’ fifth appearance for Team USA making her the most experienced Paralympian on the current Para alpine skiing national team.
Representing the United States has been a goal for Stephens since she started participating in sports as a child, starting with wheelchair racing. Born with spina bifida, Stephens started skiing at age 12, eventually making her Paralympic debut in 2006, where she won her first gold and silver medals. That year, she was named Paralympic Sportswoman of the Year by the USOPC and received a nomination for Best Female Athlete with a Disability at the ESPYs.
“Wanting to be able to compete at the Paralympics was always my dream, just being able to show that we're not all that different from our Olympic counterparts and that we train just as hard,” she said. “We just want to go out there and perform the best that we can.”
Adding to her medal count at the next Winter Paralympic Games is what motivates Stephens, but until the opportunity knocks, she said she’s comfortable rolling with the punches and using the same mindset that has already led to seven medals.
“I just want to ski as well as I think and know I can. I love to ski, and I want to ski up to my potential. Going into these next Games is trying to be the best that I can and hope that the results come with it.”