Local athlete Hogan to compete at Paralympics

BENNINGTON — The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are over, with the United States finishing fourth in the medal count with 23, including nine golds.

As athletes from more than 100 countries depart South Korea, the Olympic spirit remains as Paralympic athletes take their turn on the world's biggest stage.

More than 600 athletes will compete in alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, sled hockey, snowboarding, biathlon and wheelchair curling over the Games' 10 days and

one of those athletes, Connor Hogan, has some strong ties to Southern Vermont and the Bennington area.

"I was in Colorado for the national team camp and everyone who had been selected to that point was there, so I thought I could be," Hogan said in a phone interview on Wednesday night. "Then we got the official word and it hasn't quite hit me yet. In my last training with my coaches, they were like 'Do us proud' and it started to hit me that, hey, I'm going to compete in the Paralympics."

Hogan, 20, was born in Foxboro, Mass., but his father Tim, was born in southern Vermont and his grandmother, Barbara, still lives in Bennington.

"I lived with my grandmother, she's been here through everything," Hogan said. "She's never seen me race in person, but she'll be able to watch on TV. I think of Bennington as my second hometown, I've spent a lot of time in Bennington and there's always been a lot of support."

Hogan was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months old, but that never stopped him. His parents, Tim and Pamela, were both ski instructors and he took the slopes right away, starting around three years old at Bromley Mountain in Manchester.

He started to compete in racing only a few years later and trained at Bromley and then at Stratton Mountain, both against able-bodied skiers.

"I knew that I was a disabled kid in an able-bodied world, but skiing made me feel freer," said Hogan, preparing for his trip to Korea at his grandmother's home in Bennington. "I tried quote-unquote 'normal' sports, but none of them worked for me, I couldn't throw a baseball that far or anything. But skiing clicked and I knew I could do it."

In the Paralympics, each athlete is given a determination based on the severity of their disability.

"It's a way to even the field, like a handicap in golf," Hogan said.

Hogan is listed as a LW9-2 skier — LW stands for Locomotor Winter — and according to the World Para Alpine Skiing website, skiers in the LW9 class have an impairment that affect both arms and legs.

Hogan said he has issues with one leg from his hip down and one of his arms. He'll compete in two events at the Games, the slalom and Giant slalom.

Hogan wasn't even sure he would ski again, let alone reach the Paralympics, after severely injuring his ankle in a 2016 training run.

"I broke it in Colorado and I would have rather it not happened," Hogan said. "It was a struggle to know if I could ski again because the ankles are important."

He recovered from the injury and qualified for the Paralympics after finishing on the podium in all eight of his races in the United States this winter.

Hogan said one of his inspirations is Mikaela Shiffrin, a skier who has regional connections as well.

"I had friends that went to the Olympics and I got a chance to talk to them about the experience," Hogan said. "I grew up watching [Shiffrin] ski, she's been one of my idols."

Hogan said he's not worried about reaching the podium in this Paralympics trip, but working toward the 2022 Games, scheduled to take place in Beijing, China.

"I'm going for the experience, to see what it's all about," Hogan said. "Kids dream of walking in the parade of nations at the [closing] ceremony and I'll be with 649 other people competing at their highest level."

To watch Hogan compete, go to www.nbcolympics.com and watch the live stream on March 13 and March 17.


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