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Paralympians start in twin counties, end up in Pyeongchang

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    Andrew Haraghey (USA) competes in the alpine skiing standing men’s Super G during the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre.
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    Staci Mannella (USA) follows her guide Sadie de Baun as they compete in the alpine skiing visually impaired women’s Super G during the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre.
March 14, 2018 12:10 pm

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — With the Paralympic Games in full swing in Pyeongchang, South Korea, two Team USA competitors got their start in local adaptive programs.

Windham Mountain Resort sponsored U.S. Paralympics Alpine National Team member, Staci Mannella, as she made her way to the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympic Games.

Mannella first discovered skiing with the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham Mountain when she was just four years old.

Legally blind due to achromatopsia, a genetic eye condition she was born with, she started skiing because it was an activity that her family could all do together. Mannella quickly progressed from skiing with a bamboo pole between two sighted skiers, to out-skiing her instructors, to competing in her first national championship at just 11 years old.

A limitless dreamer, Mannella’s career thus far has included four national championship titles, a World Cup gold medal and representing the United States in the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games.

Mannella and her current guide, Sadie Debaun, have been skiing together since December of 2015. They’ve secured four World Cup gold medals, three World Cup silver medals and a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships. The two have high hopes for Pyeongchang and Windham Mountain Resort could not be more excited for them.

Windham’s support of Mannella is a testament to the Resort’s long-standing relationship with the Adaptive Sports Foundation. The non-profit organization provides life changing experiences for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities and chronic illnesses through outdoor physical activity, education, support and community.

Staci Mannella is a Randolph, New Jersey native and at 20 years old is a full-time student at Dartmouth College where she competes on the Dartmouth equestrian team.

She aspires to attend veterinarian school after Dartmouth. While her skiing career has brought Mannella all over the world, she always makes her way back home to Windham.

Andrew Haraghey, an adaptive skier with cerebral palsy who learned how to ski when he was seven years old, competed in his first race in 2006 at Jiminy Peak’s Adaptive program hosted by STRIDE Adaptive Sports, which is based in West Sand Lake.

Haraghey, who has cerebral palsy and mobility impairment of both legs, needed the use of outriggers to stabilize his balance and his style of skiing is called four-track.

Haraghey, 23, is competing for Team USA Paralympics at Pyeongchang in Downhill and Super G events.

He experienced his first taste of the “racing bug” at the STRIDE Great Race. Haraghey continued his practice and continued skiing lessons at STRIDE’s Ski Sundown program in Connecticut near his home in Enfield, CT.

At the beginning of the 2009-10 season he, started formal race training and was awarded a scholarship to attend the National Race Festival at the Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado with some of the best Adaptive Ski Race Coaches in the country, and members of the US Adaptive Ski Team.

Haraghey is now ranked between fifth and seventh in the nation in all five events, with a bronze finish in slalom at U.S. nationals this past season. After years of hard work and perseverance, he hopes to celebrate with a trip to the podium and a medal.

Both racers’ stories show that every Olympian gets their start somewhere and serves as an inspiration to anyone looking to move beyond a disability and follow their passion.