How Ralph A. Green Skis Past Adversity and Long Odds
- Posted by
- Myrian C on 2/28/2012
If you've ever struggled with skiing adversity—bad weather or a
tweaked knee, maybe—consider the story of adaptive skier Ralph A. Green.
Ralph, now a member of the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing National Team, was a multi-sport athlete whose life took a turn after he lost a leg following a random street shooting on a Brooklyn, New York, street corner in 1992. Strength, vision and perseverance are the words that come to mind as I speak with Ralph.
Here is Ralph's story in his own words:
"The first time that I watched several skiers with one leg and skied myself was in 1994. My first thought was 'this is fun' but didn't think much of it after I left the ski trip.
"Years later, I was in college and indecisive with what I wanted to do after college. I was lost with what I wanted to do in life. Then one day, I packed my bags; one filled with Nike shoes and the other with clothes, and told my mom, 'I'm moving to Colorado to be the number one skier.'
"She was incredibly supportive about my decision. And off I went to Colorado, with my duffel bags and $300 in my pocket and no ski gear. That was the hardest and easiest decision of my life.
"I arrived in Colorado in 2000, and it was different. I was in an element that was unlike New York, where I had grown up. I started adaptive skiing full-time with the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
"I trained for 4 years to make the U.S. Paralympic ski team. I was the first one on the lift in the morning and the last one to get off the mountain in the afternoon. I would ski and train all day. All I heard was 'you need miles.' Growing up playing basketball, football and being team captains gave me the discipline to do more. I like to think that I trained more than anyone.
"When you're on the U.S. team and you want to win, like I do, you train 4 years for 6 minutes of racing. All the hard work and training is for those few memorable moments.
"When I finally made the national team in 2004, I moved to Vail, Colorado, and that's when I made it a priority to defy expectations. I wanted to be outside the norm and be good. Not just participate in the Paralympics, but WIN. I wanted to be up on the podium holding a medal.
"When asked about being a role model, I say, 'That is my job. That's why I do what I do.' People can relate to me; they can be inspired by my actions.
"Social media is great because I can share places that I've visited with my followers—some are people who haven't left Brooklyn. I can inspire them to be better people. I also inspire people in Vail when I'm training with able bodies. I will fight to the very end and stay on the course. I will not give up. That gives others a chance to keep going.
"The National Brotherhood of Skiers is one of my sponsors. They have allowed me to offset some costs of the sport. The NBS is doing something special, and I wish that at one point in my life I'll be in a situation that I could help more on the giving end. I can help African Americans to identify in winter sports and assist athletes in pursuing what is not the norm.
"My friends and family have been my foundation. They did not treat me differently after the accident. They had no pity for me. Everything that I do is to make my mother proud. She passed away this past September, and she gets a lot of the credit for my success in life."
So, what's next for Ralph? Not only is Ralph a snow enthusiast, he recently qualified for the London 2012 Paralympics in the shot put. His goal is to participate in the Paralympics and bring home a medal.
Ralph's favorite REI gear: a trail chair that he takes everywhere, especially for competitions to avoid sitting in the snow. When he's not enjoying the snow or shot putting, he's camping with his younger brother, riding his bike or enjoying the great outdoors. You can follow him on Twitter: @bkskiman
REI is a proud partner and supporter of the National Brotherhood of Skiers whose mission is to "identify, develop and support athletes of color who will WIN international and Olympic winter sports competition representing the Unites States and to increase participation in winter sports." It is through the local chapters, almost 60 nationwide, that the NBS provides education and opportunities to increase participation in the sport.
To raise funds for their program, the NBS hosts a summit each year bringing together hundreds of winter sport enthusiasts. This year, REI will join Ralph and the NBS at their national summit in Sun Valley, Idaho, now through March 3.
"Ralph's experiences and accomplishments inspire other youth and NBS members," states Haymon Jahi, president of the National Brotherhood of Skiers. "He makes a difference in the lives of all he touches and represents the heart of the NBS mission."
For more information about NBS and their national summit, visit nbs.org.