Liza Corso competes in the 1500m at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. (Photo: Mark Reis)
Liza Corso had a good reason for missing her freshman orientation and more than a week of classes at Lipscomb University.
She was in Tokyo in late August, making her Paralympic debut in track and field. When she was done competing, she flew to Nashville, Tennessee, and was back on Lipscomb’s campus on Sept. 1.
Of course, Corso had a cool souvenir from the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 to show her new college roommates — the silver medal she earned in the 1,500-meter.
“I didn’t really talk about it too much, but the school posted it on their Instagram, so like some random people have come up to me and been like ‘Oh, you were in the Paralympics,’” said Corso, a native of Newmarket, New Hampshire.
“And my professors know, too, so some of them have mentioned it in class or something. I don’t like going around saying, ‘Oh, I was just in Tokyo,’ but people have found out.”
The past few months have been a whirlwind for Corso, who turned 18 on July 10, won her silver medal at the Paralympics on Aug. 28 and started her freshman year of college a few days later.
Corso has been adjusting to college life and starting her freshman season on Lipscomb’s cross-country team. It has been so busy she’ll have to put off her Para Nordic skiing dreams for a little bit.
“At least my freshman year I’m focusing in on running, and obviously I’m going to school in Tennessee so there’s not really much snow,” Corso said. “But definitely like during Thanksgiving break and Christmas break when I’m in New Hampshire I’ll be skiing.
“But it’s not something that I’m really focusing on at least this year. But definitely I have goals in the future for Nordic skiing. So I’ll continue, just not at the intensity I’ve done racing.”
Corso was born with albinism, a rare genetic disorder in which she doesn’t have pigment in her skin, hair or eyes. As a result, her eyes are sensitive to light and she can see only 20 feet in front her.
She’s legally blind with her vision at around 22/50.
Corso was introduced to Para Nordic skiing while she was still racing as one of the top high school distance runners in New Hampshire.
She attended several U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing camps and competed at the U.S. Biathlon National Championships in West Yellowstone, Montana, in March. She has shown potential as a skier, but she has been a runner since she was a kid.
Corso said she didn’t expect to shave 13 seconds off her personal best in the 1,500 meters at the Paralympics, finishing the T13 final in 4:30.67 to earn a silver.
“It was a total shock,” said Corso, who’s majoring in dietetics at Lipscomb. “… Obviously, I wanted to medal, but I wasn’t really expecting it, I would say.”
The Paralympics were held in August without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, since Corso was 17 when she qualified for the Paralympics, she was considered a minor and her mother was allowed to accompany her to Tokyo.
“I turned 18 in July, so if I was born two months earlier, she wouldn’t have been able to come,” said Corso, who competed in her first international race in Tokyo. “So it was really cool that she was able to share the moment with me.”
One of Corso’s coaches told her before the 1,500 final to be gutsy and take advantage of every opportunity she gets on the track.
She said she had that in the back of her mind as she made a push on the final lap to finish behind only gold medalist Tigist Menigstu of Ethiopia (4:23.24).
“As I was going, I just kind of stayed in the pack, and then the last 200 I was feeling good and I started to pass people,” Corso said. “And I was like ‘OK, we’re in fifth. Now we’re in fourth.’ I was like ‘Oh wait, now I can actually medal.’ It just kind of progressed like that.”
Corso missed the first two cross-country races of the season for Lipscomb, but she’ll make her collegiate debut on Saturday (Oct. 16) at the UAB Blazer Classic in Birmingham, Alabama.
As far as Para Nordic skiing, Corso said she wants to keep up her skills. She could do some roller skiing this summer with the goal of someday competing at the Winter Paralympics.
“I think I’d like to pursue it after college more seriously and see if I can qualify for a (Winter) Games and compete internationally for both skiing and running,” Corso said.