Vail Valley skiers named finalists for U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Two skiers from Colorado’s Vail Valley have been named finalists for the 2009 class of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Sarah Will, of Edwards and Greg Mannino, of Eagle, both decorated Paralympic athletes, were announced as nominees Thursday at a press conference in Chicago.
They are listed alongside famed athletes and teams such as sprinter Michael Johnson, skier Picabo Street and the 1992 men’s basketball “Dream Team.” The inductees will be named Aug. 12 in Chicago. One Paralympian, one team and five other individual athletes will be chosen.
Will said she is honored to be listed among athletes such as Mannino and Jean Driscoll, who is a Paralympic wheelchair racer.
“Names like Jean Driscoll were names I had always heard when I was first injured, and those were the people you only read about,” Will said. “To be even included among those athletes is something that you really never thought was possible.”
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Will won 12 Paralympic golds and one silver from 1992 through 2002, becoming the most decorated women’s monoskier in U.S. history.
“To represent the United States meant so much to me, to represent our colors, and it meant even more to me (in Salt Lake City) in 2002, when I had a chance to represent the United States in our own country,” she said.
A skiing accident in 1988 left Will paralyzed from the waist down. A year later, she was back on the slopes on a monoski.
An Eagle County resident since 1992, Will now works with a group called AXS Vail Valley to advocate better access to and growth of recreation programs and services for physically disabled residents and visitors in the valley.
Mannino is a five-time Paralympian who won six golds, four silvers and two bronzes during his Paralympic career, which culminated with the Salt Lake games in 2002.
Mannino was in an electrical accident when he was 17, and his left leg was amputated above the knee.
Ray Watkins, Mannino’s former teammate and coach, said, from the first time he met Mannino in 1985, he could see the gleam in his eye of a champion.
“He was a great role model for the young athletes who came behind him, to see the work ethic and determination to be what it takes to be a true Paralympic champion,” Watkins said. “He was 100 percent committed to what he did on and off the snow. Just a great athletic talent.”
Mannino couldn’t be reached by phone Friday.
Members of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame include Muhammad Ali, Peggy Fleming, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Bonnie Blair, Eric Heiden, Mark Spitz, Janet Evans and the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.