In continuation of covering the U.S. Paralympics World Cup I have been fortunate to have had the chance to interview Vail local, Thomas Charles Walsh, here in Aspen skiing for the U.S. Paralympics Alpine National Team during the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup.
I first was introduced to Thomas by my nephew seven years ago. Thomas and Devon were friends through their ski racing, but Thomas was stricken with a rare form of cancer right before he was about to leave for the ski academy, Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont. For one year Thomas was forced to leave skiing behind and instead endure treatments and hospitals in Denver and Boston. Although, I never met Thomas in person I followed he and his mom’s daily updates on his carepage and kept him in my thoughts and prayers.
While covering the World Cup here in Aspen I requested an interview with one of the athletes and was told I could reach out to Thomas. When I realized it was the same Thomas, clean of cancer and now skiing for the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team I felt a warm wash of appreciation run through me for where he was then and where he is now. I was finally going to get to meet him in person.
Trudging into the Inn at Aspen with my video camera and tripod I met Thomas in the lobby and immediately felt his calm and graceful demeanor. As we sat and talked before the interview I learned that Thomas has always been true to himself and his passion not only for skiing but also dance, music and the performing arts. At the age of six he became a ballet dancer and eventually joined the Vail Valley Youth Ballet Company. As he got older he continued dancing, enjoying the cross training of ballet with nordic and alpine skiing, along with baseball, hockey and all of his other sports. All along it was his mom who encouraged him to do everything he loved. She is now his one and only sponsor (let’s give his mum a break shall we and bring in some more sponsors??).
Recovering from the cancer treatments, at one point he weighed as little as 65lbs, Thomas actually did end up attending Green Mountain Academy and returned to ski racing. When told he was an anomaly to other men his age Thomas replied, “Other students do what is logical, not necessarily what they want to do.” Clearly this devotion to stay true to himself has worked well for him, after the Academy he enrolled into the Savannah College of Art and Design and hopes to graduate with a BFA in performing arts. He also was invited to be on the U.S. Paralympics Alpine National Team and has joined as a disabled athlete. Within this first year has won his first giant slalom world cup race to complete the season ranked second (slalom) and third (giant slalom) in the overall world cup standings.
Thomas acknowledges that all he has been through has made him stronger.
When asked what he wishes his legacy to be, Thomas replies,
* Thomas has been nominated for the Best of February Male Paralympic Athlete of the Month. Vote for him here: http://www.teamusa.org/team-usa-awards