Connor Hogan competes at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. (Photo: Joe Kusumoto)
The Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 changed on just the second day of competition for standing skier Connor Hogan.
And it hurt beyond the physical pain.
He had skipped the Opening Ceremony at the Beijing National Stadium because he needed to rest and prepare for his downhill race on the first day of the Games. He finished 28th.
The next day would prove to be an even tougher result. Speeding down the super-G course on Day 2, Hogan went down hard. Game over. Not just for that event, but for the entire Paralympic Games. Hogan’s medal dreams vanished in the snow that day, and shortly after he was on a flight back to the United States for medical attention.
“I thankfully walked away pretty unscathed without any injuries,” he said. “For a while, they thought I was pretty hurt due to how hard I hit. I mean, I was going about 70 miles an hour.”
A two-time Paralympian who grew up the quaint town of Foxborough, Massachusetts, and spent winter weekends on the snow at Stratton Mountain in Vermont, Hogan had been scheduled to compete in four events in Beijing, and just like that, it was over.
“There was a concern I had bone bruising in the left knee and (a) concussion,” Hogan said.
It turned out he had neither.
“No concussion, no nothing after being assessed,” Hogan said. “It was more a shock of the crash that made my body be like, ‘OK, something’s wrong.’ As I calmed down, everything seemed to be OK, so that was good.”
The crash, and months of recovery, has motivated Hogan for the upcoming 2022-23 season and the beginning of a four-year quad leading up to the 2026 Paralympic Winter Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy. As the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team heads for a training camp this month in the Swiss Alps, Hogan will be among its most determined skiers.
“I want to ski now,” he said. “I’m ready. It’s been three months.”
From there, Hogan, 25, intends on carving a path toward the Paralympics in 2026. There’s little question about that. The goal is gold.
“There’s kind of a saying,” Hogan said. “You go to the first one (Paralympic Games) to enjoy it, you go to the second one to experience it, you go to the third one to win. That’s kind of the go-to saying.
“Go win a gold medal. That’s been my dream since I was an 8-year-old kid, to win a gold medal.”
After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months, Hogan was on snow at an early age and ski racing against able-bodied kids. His parents are ski instructors, and he still spends most of his winter up at Stratton staying with his paternal grandmother, Barbara Hogan.
“It was either you ski or stay home. There’s no in-between,” Hogan said of his early childhood. “I was kind of like, ‘Oh, OK. I’ll ski. That’s fine.’”
Growing up in a town best known for being home to the New England Patriots, Hogan remembers trick or treating at Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski’s house. However, he found himself drawn more to the ski slopes than the gridiron.
Hogan was skiing internationally by the time he was 12 years old. He competed in his first world championships in 2015 in slalom. Three years later, he made his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang, finishing 24th in the giant slalom. The 2018 experience included just that one race and the Closing Ceremony. That’s why Beijing was so important to him. Hogan wanted a fuller Paralympic experience, which was supposed to include four starts.
“It’s always an experience to be able to represent the country on such a big stage,” he said. “Due to the way the schedule was, I didn’t go to Opening Ceremonies. We were racing downhill the next day, so I wanted to stay home and get some sleep and get ready for the next day.
“I was there for the whole openings and everything, which is kind of cool, this time around, where four years ago I flew in, raced giant slalom, went to Closing and flew home. It was kind of cool to have the experience that I didn’t get four years ago, being there for the first half of it. I would have loved to be there for the whole thing.”
That’s the plan for 2026.