Thomas Walsh competes in the Alpine Skiing - Men's Slalom - Standing at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games on March 17, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Thomas Walsh is a 24-year old Alpine skier looking to make his second U.S. Paralympic Team in 2022. Here, he writes from Hintertux Glacier in Austria, where he’s with the team for its first training since March.
It’s day three of skiing here in Hintertux. The weather has been a little subpar; visibility is pretty low. However, spirits are really high because we’re finally back on the snow after so long.
Needless to say, it’s been a weird year for all of us. Normally, our team is on the road together almost 10 months a year, but when COVID-19 shut down the U.S. in March, we were all sent home from Norway. Then, everybody was isolated in their own places, and we didn’t see each other for so long.
I, for one, spent the time at home in Colorado, working toward my master’s degree as well as training at the gym and doing a lot of bike riding. I bought a paddleboard, which was a big investment, but very necessary to be outside and enjoy the sunshine during summer. And then there was just a lot of waiting, waiting to see what’s going to happen with our training, what’s going to happen with our races. And then we finally got the word that we’d be able to come here and train as a team again.
Now that we’re together again, it’s almost like nothing was missed. The team is such a close-knit group of people that everything picks back up. We’re all staying on the same floor, like a big family. And we’ve already gotten back into a groove with our training schedule: every day, we all get up around 7. We have some breakfast and we get dressed and pack up the van with our skis and our bags. Then we get there, we unload the van, and we head up the gondola. We get dressed inside one of the main lodges, then we go out and ski.
Not everything’s back to normal, though. Far from it: COVID-19 has changed how we travel, how we spend time “together,” and how we train. When we arrived in Germany on Friday, we had to stay there for two days before we were allowed to travel into Austria. We were quarantined here for a few days, got another COVID-19 test, and then we were finally allowed to ski.
Now, even though we’re all staying on the same floor, COVID-19 protocol means we still have to keep a distance from each other, and just like in the U.S., we wear a mask any time we’re outside our rooms. It’s been isolating, but for the first couple days of quarantine I was a little bit behind on my homework and had to shut myself in to study, anyway. We also managed to find a way to interact safely outside of our rooms: A bunch of us brought lacrosse sticks this trip and we are able to pass the ball socially distanced. Even during our quarantine, we would go stand 10 or 12 feet apart with masks on in the parking lot and pass the ball back and forth.