I woke to a great piece of news Thursday morning — Stephanie Jallen had finished second in a World Cup Slalom skiing event in Veysonnaz, Switzerland.
What’s so special about this podium finish is, not only was it Stephanie’s first of the year, but she is now officially qualified to join Team USA at the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in March.
Just to recap, Stephanie, a 2014 Wyoming Area graduate, took up skiing at the age of 9. It may not be unusual to begin skiing at such a young age but what’s rare is that she skis with only one arm and one leg.
Stephanie had a dream of skiing for the USA in the Paralympic Games in 2014 at Soschi, Russia. With hard work on the slopes and off the slopes with trainer Ernie Baul, at Danko’s Fitness Center, she made it to Russia.
She defied all odds being an 18-year-old rookie on the team and claimed two bronze medals. To put things into prospective, the entire USA Paralympic team only captured 18 total medals. Stephanie has two of them.
Because of her efforts, she was voted Best Female Paralympian as well having the Best Paralympic Moment, mainly because of the excitement she displayed over her podium finish.
She was honored in a nationwide televised show from Washington, D.C. and got the chance to visit the White House with other Olympians and Paralympians to meet President Obama.
Not bad from a little girl with big dreams from Harding, PA.
Imagine what it takes to ski at rates of 60 and 70 mph down a mountain with one leg and one arm. Stephanie is the only female skier in the world competing on only one leg. All other Paralympics competitors have two legs and most have two arms, as well.
Someone once said to me, “She’s the Lindsey Vonn of Paralympic skiers.” I disagree. She’s better than Lindsey Vonn. I defy Vonn to race down a hill on one leg with one arm tied behind her back. It would never happen.
Over the past 12 years, Stephanie has done amazing fetes physically. I’ve seen her work out at a feverous pitch that would make any world-class athlete envious. I’ve seen her compete in a combat-style event with hills, mud pools, walls, and barbed wire.
I’m thoroughly convinced there is nothing she can’t do.
Of course, all of the training and hard work have come with consequences – injuries are no stranger to her, in particular, injuries to her ankle.
When you’re putting so much pressure on one ankle flying down a mountain or training like a maniac in the gym, something is bound to happen.
After the race season in spring 2017, Stephanie underwent ankle surgery. It was successful, but for how long?
With her success in 2014 in Russia, Stephanie was bound to return to compete in another Games in 2018. Now 21 years old, a little wiser and a bit stronger, she’s ready for South Korea. The big question going into the 2018 World Cup season? Was the ankle going to hold up and could she make the team?
The message I received Thursday morning answered those questions and solidified her position on the team to head to South Korea.
How happy was she after finishing at P-2 in the Slalom at Veysonnaz? “Oh my God, a thousand pounds have been lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I was losing sleep.”
Not only can Stephanie now sleep better, but her mother Deborah, father Mike and sister Sarah can rest easy, knowing she’s on her way to her second Paralympic Games.
With the stress competition at this level puts on Stephanie’s leg, this may very well be her last trip to a Paralympic Games. Then again, she’ll only be 25 years old next time around. Anything is possible.
After high school graduation, Stephanie enrolled at King’s College where she’s been a model student, achieving great grades all while competing and training. She has taken off the 2017-2018 school year to focus on the World Cup season leading into South Korea.
I can’t imagine juggling school and training while competing at a world-class level.
There are just a few more events before the 2018 World Cup season concludes and we wish Stephanie the best.
She will compete at Tignes, France next week and the World Cup Finals at Kimberly, Canada in Februrary.
Once you meet Stephanie, you won’t ever forget her. She’s an inspiration to so many people and an advocate for the handicapped, especially children. She is a huge supporter of wounded military and an animal lover. Her compassion for animals is so immense, she rescued a horse and a donkey last year.
She and her family built a barn in their backyard to house the animals.
Stephanie has a magnetic personality and is quite the public speaker — so much so, that when she retires from racing, she may pursue a career as a speaker.
I’d like to wish Stephanie Jallen, the 2014 Sunday Dispatch Person of the Year, the best of luck and continued success for the remainder of the ski season and good luck in South Korea.
Quote of the week
“To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.” – Charles de Montesquieu, French philosopher
Thought of the week
“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first time or the last. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.” – Betty Smith, American author
“We loved with a love that was more than love.” – Edgar Allan Poe, American poet
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at email@example.com.