Vail Paralympian Will earns ESPY nomination
Will, a multiple Paralympian gold-medalist mono-skier from Vail, earned herself an ESPY nomination last week. She is up for the Best Disabled Athlete ESPY, the first time in the 10-year history of the awards show that this category has been contested. The ESPY Awards air July 10 at 7 p.m. MST from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Calif.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Will said. “It’s the first time any disabled athletes have ever been nominated. I was just so psyched. It’s really honored to be nominated among all these incredible athletes, especially Erik Weilhenmayer.”
Weilhemayer picked up his nomination for being the first blind man to scale Mount Everest. The third nominee in the category is Steve Pate, a wheelchair rugby star.
“I keep on seeing the preview for the ESPYs on TV. It’s one of those things you never really expect, but you always watch because some of the greatest athletes are up there and sports is a big part of my life.”
Will, 37, is equally accomplished in comparison to her fellow nominees. Growing up in New York, she started skiing when she was 9. In 1988, she broke her back in an accident. Turning to mono-skiing, she’s pretty much dominated the sport for the past 10 years. Over the course of the Paralympic Games in Albertville, France; Lillehammer, Norway; Nagano, Japan; and Salt Lake City earlier this year, she’s won 12 gold medals and a silver, for good measure.
In February’s Paralympics, Will swept to gold medals in all four disciplines of alpine mono-skiing – downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom, thank you very much.
“I think I was in disbelief,” Will said. “I felt really lucky to be able to do that. The competition was good. Having the race on the women’s Olympic downhill run was exactly what we’ve been waiting for.
“It’s a good way to relate to people that we are skiing exactly the same hills as the Olympic champions, that there isn’t a lot of difference in the courses that we’re skiing on. We’re looking for more challenges and not less.”
And that is where the significance of Will’s ESPY nomination lies. Make no mistake, Will is proud of the medals, but the development of mono-skiing, especially on the grassroots level, is one of her primary goals. Visibility in a media outlet like ESPN can’t do anything but help the cause.
“It’s so good that they recognized (the Best Disabled Athlete category,” said Chris Anthony, a good friend of Will’s and a longtime local skier. “I think for Sarah, who’s done so much and a lot of it behind the scenes, she hasn’t got the publicity that she deserves. I think it’s a great, great thing because this will put her in the mainstream of sport.”
Will doesn’t know whether she will be heading to Hollywood for the ceremony in July. But if she does, she’ll definitely have a place to stay.
“I’ve got some friends from the ski team who live there and some old friends from college who live there, whom I haven’t seen in years,” Will said. “I think the best thing about my whole skiing career is that it’s brought me to so many incredible places and helped me meet so many wonderful people. It really has been about the journey. Truthfully, all the poeple in the Vail Valley, if it weren’t for their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”