FARMINGTON – “I’ve always enjoyed the freedom of being active,” said Kathy White, a Strong native who has dedicated herself to skiing and racing for the past 17 years.
Her freedom has been a constant struggle for the 21-year old, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one.
White’s doctors told her family she would probably never walk, talk or go to a normal school. But this college senior, pursuing a degree in political science and coaching, successfully trained and competed on able-bodied ski teams, raced in disabled competitions on a national level, and is preparing herself to go to graduate school to study nutrition.
It’s clear she’s proven the doctors wrong.
Her passion for skiing began when she was four and started participating in the Maine Handicap Skiing program in Newry.
“I immediately developed a passion for it,” said White, who couldn’t walk at the time but asserts it was at that point she became a “skier girl.” By the next winter, White was walking.
While she was the only member to ski with outriggers, she nevertheless joined the Mt. Abram High School ski team and competed on the able-bodied team.
During her sophomore year, White met the U.S. Disabled Ski Team while attending the Learn to Race Program, a disabled skier’s camp, in Breckenridge, Colo. The following winter, she returned to Colorado to compete in the Columbia Crest qualifiers, formerly known as the Meridian Cup, a national level meet solely for disabled skiers.
White attended Waterville Valley Academy her senior year to obtain training personally catered to her. While there White says she became completely dedicated to racing, on the hill and during dry-land training.
That’s also when White met Ron Bonnevie, a professor and ski coach at the University of Maine at Farmington. After two years at Plymouth State College, White transferred to UMF. Her desire to become a ski coach immediately associated her with Bonnevie, whom she has constantly worked with in the classroom and on the slopes for the past two years.
White says the allure of being closer to Sugarloaf and her family was also a factor in her moving.
The third of 12 siblings, White feels she has “an amazing support system from my family.” She says with her parents, “it’s all or nothing, and I don’t think I’d have the work ethic I have if it wasn’t instilled by them.”
At UMF, White quickly joined the school’s Competitive Ski Club and “was amazed at how hard all the members worked during dry-land.” White trained and raced exclusively against able-bodied skiers and explored her interest in coaching.
This past winter she coached the Maine Handicap Skiing race team and become involved in its nutritional program. She also returned to Colorado, this time as an instructor for the Learn to Race Program.
White said, “It’s nice to bring back some of the experiences I’ve had and share them with the kids.”
When thinking about the difficult times she has had over the past 17 years, White said, “I’ve always hated having to swallow the fact I have a disability, but I try to embrace what’s possible and share it with people.”
White hopes next to be on the U.S. team going to the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver and opening up the East Coast’s first disabled skiers’ training facility.