BENNINGTON -- Bennington resident Betsy Hurley was born with a spinal cord defect called spina bifida, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. For many, this would have precluded an athletic career, but Hurley is not one to be so easily dissuaded. After seeing a special on television about members of the US Disabled Ski Team at the age of 10, she turned to her parents and said, "I want to try that!" After that, it was only a matter of time until she was hooked.
Currently in training to be considered for a spot on the US Disabled Ski Team for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, Hurley participated in a meet and greet at Anytime Fitness in Bennington on Monday. Hurley graduated from Springfield College with a bachelor's degree in Therapeutic Recreation in 2007, but is currently focusing on her racing full-time. She hopes to one day, after her racing career, help teach disabled people to play and enjoy sports as she has.
Hurley started in the Special Olympics at the age of 13, where she had great success, going to the World Games in 2001. However, in 2004, she left the Special Olympics, feeling that the competition was not advanced enough. Now she looks to compete at the highest level there is.
Mono-skiing, or "sit-skiing," was first introduced as an event in the 1988 Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria, with medals awarded in the categories of Nordic and Alpine skiing.
Many of the races Hurley participates in are in Colorado, which can be difficult for her to get to without funding. As the US Team is chosen based on a points system, missing races hurts her chances of making the team. "Races themselves aren't the expensive part, it's getting there, staying there." Participating in a race can cost Hurley around $2,000, in airfare and hotels, even with skiers rooming together to split costs. "With airfare prices today, its usually around $400, for just one way." While Hurley relies on help from the community and her sponsors to cover much of the cost, three years ago she took up quilting to help raise some money for her cause. Several of her quilts were on display at the meet and greet, and she was taking orders for custom quilts.
Hurley is currently trying to raise money to attend a camp in Colorado, where she and other mono-ski racers focus on improving their technique and finding and analyzing their weaknesses. Athletes and their coaches are given access to video footage of their runs, to help in this endeavor.
Hurley has participated in many other sports for the purpose of cross-training, including wheelchair soccer, handcycling, and horseback riding. However, with so much of her schedule taken up with training right now, she has abandoned most of her other sports, save martial arts, which she still does regularly.
Diane Daley, a staff member at Anytime Fitness, where Hurley trains three times a week, said, "Betsy one of the finest people I know, and is an inspiration to us all. We have it easy, and she makes it look easy. She truly has a heart of gold."
For more information, or to donate to Hurley's cause, you can visit her website at BetsyHurley.com
Derek Carson can be contacted for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.