David Williams poses for a selfie on his boat.
As one of the newest members of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Ski Team, David Williams still can’t quite believe where he’s at right now.
In Austria, training with the team, spending day after day on the snow and preparing for as full a season of racing as possible.
For someone who’d never skied in his life before sitting in a monoski for the first time six years ago, it’s proof that one just never knows where life can lead.
“I’m having the time of my life,” said Williams, 41. “This is amazing. Just riding up the gondola and seeing the Alps, I never imagined this in my life. Ten years ago I never thought I’d be able to see this stuff. Just being here and being able to train with the best coaches, having the best support, the best teammates and everything else, it’s completely mind-blowing.”
Born in St. Louis, Williams lived there until he joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 20. He was stationed in Atsugi, Japan, when he had an accident and broke his back about a year later.
“After that I had kind of a sad part of my life,” said Williams, who uses a wheelchair. “I was drinking a lot and going down a bad path. I did that for 10 years, and then I decided to get sober.”
In need of a change after quitting drinking, Williams moved to Miami.
One day, while volunteering at the local VA, one of the physical therapists mentioned a winter sports clinic through the Veterans Adaptive Sports organization.
Williams had no interest.
He was happy to work out in the gym and was focused on being as healthy as he could be, he said, but he had never really been an athlete. Even growing up and prior to the injury he never really participated in sports outside of some beer league softball, so the idea just wasn’t appealing.
Somehow, he said, he nonetheless was talked into heading to Snowmass, Colorado, for the clinic.
“I had the best time,” he said. “I was out there with 100-plus other veterans learning how to monoski. It was such a good time and between the teachers and the athletes I saw there I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. This is what I want.’”
That was six years ago.