U.S. Paralympics Alp... News Now Done With High S...

Now Done With High School, Jesse Keefe Is Looking Forward To 2026

By Nicole Haase | July 18, 2022, 1:55 p.m. (ET)

Jesse Keefe competes at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. (Photo: Joe Kusumoto)

The youngest member of Team USA’s Paralympic contingent has had an eventful 2022, and the year is only half over.


Jesse Keefe started the year being named to his first Paralympic team and competing as an alpine skier in the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. He followed that up by graduating from high school. 


Finishing up high school while also competing on the world stage made things “six times more stressful” according to Keefe, but he also wouldn’t change anything about the experience. 


Well, maybe one thing. 


The 18-year-old Keefe — who was 17 while he competed in Beijing — is optimistic that next time he’s preparing just before the Paralympics, he won’t be completing English assignments on his phone while riding the ski lift between training runs like he was this time around. 


With the benefit of hindsight, that situation is funny and a bit absurd, and Keefe knows how lucky he was to be in the position. But in the moment, it was overwhelming trying to juggle everything expected of him. 


Keefe, a standing skier, had an impressive debut in the Games, finishing ninth in slalom, 15th in the super combined and giant slalom and 22nd in downhill. But it was difficult in the moment to appreciate it and not feel disappointed by his results. 


“Right after (Beijing), I was thinking, ‘I could have done better,’” Keefe said. “Regret. Stuff I could have done to help prepare myself more. Now I see it as an experience. I'm going to use that experience for my next Games, hopefully.


“Now I’m feeling a lot more content about it. Instead of seeing it in a negative way. I’m seeing it in a positive way.”


The experience of competing in the Paralympics has only made Keefe more driven to win races and make future trips to the Games. There was so much for him to learn, on and off the mountain, that will help him with skiing and in life. 


Keefe said he felt like he was in a hurry the entire time he was in Beijing. He actually had plenty of time but struggled to find balance and he feels like he missed out on some things by constantly being in a rush. 


“At the Games I was very rushed,” he said. “I felt very rushed so I would always hurry around even though I had plenty of time. After, I realized I was moving way too quickly. I learned a lot of patience.”


Though he did take some good-natured razzing from his teammates about his age, Keefe said his Paralympic experience would have been quite different without the support of his teammates. From tips on the mountain to helping him relax in their dorms, his fellow alpine skiers were crucial to making Beijing a positive experience for him. 


“My teammates made it very easy,” he said. “Throughout the Games, they definitely helped me feel more comfortable and feel way more ready to compete then I would have been if I had just gone out and raced without their help.”


His biggest takeaway was learning not to put too much weight on the idea of individual races. He knows how to ski, and he loves it. Putting too much pressure on himself because it was the Paralympics was not going to make Keefe ski any better. His teammates showed him how to get out of his own head about the magnitude or significance of a single run down the mountain. 


“I learned to not worry as much about races anymore,” Keefe said. “It’s kind of just another race, whether it’s a world cup or world championship, it’s just a race. I think that it really helped me, and it actually helped me compete better and it makes me way less nervous and ready to go.”


A native of Sun Valley, Idaho, Keefe comes from a family that learns to ski around the same time they learn to walk. Born without an ankle bone, Keefe’s leg was amputated below the knee at 11 months old. He won his first ski race by the time he was 3. 


In the lead up to Beijing, Keefe felt a little lost. He wasn’t familiar with the process, and he struggled with a lot of the unknowns. Then it was announced that the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing national team would be training at the Sun Valley Resort, and it was just the confidence boost Keefe needed to ski his best and make the team. 


“Being able to train on familiar snow completely changed that state of mind for me,” he said. 


The experience in Beijing has set Keefe on a path toward success for the 2026 Winter Games in Milano Cortina. He’ll use the knowledge he gained to hone his technique with an eye toward moving up the standings and eventually reaching the podium. Keefe’s plan is to keep training and trying to keep pushing. 


“If I can just find a way to keep skiing and doing what I love, that’s what I want to do,” he said.

Nicole Haase


Nicole Haase is a freelancer for USParaAlpineSkiing.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.