Sean Halsted shakes hands with a fan as he holds his son, Ethan, after completing the slalom super g competition Jul. 16 during the 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Spokane, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)
There’s a home video on YouTube that shows just how much one individual can accomplish, despite being paralyzed by free-falling from a helicopter. The video features U.S. Air Force Veteran and Paralympian Sean Halsted.
Sean’s wife, Sarah, made the video to document her husband’s rise from the wetland floor of Hurlburt Field, an Air Force installation in Florida, to the snowy peaks of Whistler Mountain in British Columbia.
Four years ago in Whistler, Sean competed in three events at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. He didn’t win a medal, but he kept training for a second chance. Sean is set to compete in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi (so-chee), Russia, starting March 7, 2014.
Sean’s sport is cross-country (Nordic) skiing. In this sport, participants pull (with poles), skate (when they are able), and cruise on long, slender skis along courses ranging from one to 20 kilometers in length. Sean is paralyzed from the waist down, so he competes in a kneeling position on a specialized sit ski, which takes any measure of skating out of the mix.
Click here to visit Sean’s Team USA profile
“It’s fun being out there in the woods and on the slopes, pushing yourself to the limit, all while being in a serene environment,” said Sean, who tried sled hockey and wheelchair basketball before going all-in on cross-country skiing.
Pushing himself is not new for the Pacific Northwesterner. He ran cross country through high school and rowed crew at Washington State University. The accident, which shattered his L1 vertebrae, happened during a search-and-rescue training exercise in 1998.
“My entire life was active, on the move, and suddenly it was gone,” he said.
Through early rehab, Sean said he began thinking his life would be spent on the couch surfing the Internet and playing Nintendo—which would have been completely foreign to him just a few months before.
“As a combat controller, you have these expectations,” he said. “You can’t accept sitting in your room.”
He struggled for two years before reluctantly attending the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and finding inspiration. And it’s that 2001 experience at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic that he credits with igniting his Paralympic dream. “My jaw dropped,” he said of his first experience at the clinic.