Andrew Haraghey competes at the 2023 FIS Para Alpine World Championships in Espot, Spain. (Photo: Marcus Hartmann)
After two years that featured three broken bones, a bout with COVID-19 and a case of bronchitis, Andrew Haraghey had one main goal for this Para alpine skiing season.
“One of the biggest things I was working on this year was just finding the joy again,” Haraghey said. “I think that has been one of the biggest catalysts to making more progress is having fun while I’m doing it.”
That harsh stretch left the two-time Paralympian wondering whether he was burnt out from competing, at one point contemplating retirement.
“It was kind of like just a never-ending slew of bad luck,” he said. “All that stacking together, it just did not lead up to the best start for me. Luckily, I’ve managed to push through it and then get some progress in the meantime, and here we are.”
Haraghey had a resurgent world cup performance from Feb.8-11 in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria, in which he posted a trio of sixth-place finishes in the men’s standing downhill and both of the weekend’s super-G events, all personal bests.
The results were better than what Haraghey was expecting from himself, but he said they were a culmination of progress he’s made at the beginning of the 2022-23 season.
“I’d like to think of it as a breakthrough,” he said. “I just want to make sure it doesn’t become a plateau; but if it is, it’s not the worst place to plateau. But I’d like to think of it as a continuing breakthrough and hopefully continuing to move up.”
Haraghey said that his most surprising result in Austria was his sixth-place finish in the super-G on Feb. 10.
“The day before, I’d crashed in the downhill because I hit a bump and then tweaked something in my quad and tried to keep skiing but only made it another four gates,” he said. “Pushing through that and then getting a good result out of it was … validating a little bit. Kind of taking that risk and going for it, and it paid off.”
Injuries and illness had left the 27-year-old from Enfield, Connecticut, unsure of what to anticipate this winter.
While he’s healthier now, Haraghey admitted it has taken a lot of time to recover.
“I’m getting there now, but I had my first bout of COVID in September of (last) year, and that kind of kicked my butt for a good six weeks straight,” he said. “The first week and a half, two weeks, I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t finish a workout for the first four weeks just without huffing and puffing air.
“So, that was a real struggle. And then, as soon as I got over that, I got bronchitis and was knocked out for another two weeks. So, it hasn’t been the best start to my year.”
Haraghey entered the season as much as 10 pounds under his normal weight and not in his best physical condition. That’s part of what made the results in Austria even more exciting for the skier.
“Prior to this season, I had been really just trying to crack the top 10,” Haraghey said. “So, to be able to make that leap was awesome, because up until that, my best performance was one eighth place three years ago, maybe, at a race that didn’t have quite a full field at it. To be able to go from that to this is kind of … huge.”
At the time, Haraghey wouldn’t speculate as to whether the course of his season would change for the better after his performance in Austria. His plan was to take the rest of the season one race at a time while not changing his expectations based off one event.
He managed to follow up his personal bests with another top-10 finish on the world cup circuit in a downhill race in Sella Nevea, Italy. He also wrapped his season with a 12th-place finish in slalom at the 2026 Paralympic venue in Cortina, Italy.
As for a third Paralympic Winter Games three years from now in Italy?
“That’s kind of the plan,” Haraghey said. “It’s a long ways away, so we’ll see what happens between here and there. But that’s my goal at the moment. Especially if I can keep making the progress I’m making this year, then I definitely would be stoked for another one.
“I’m just trying to keep working.”