WILKES-BARRE — Fighting through pain every day, Stephanie Jallen remains focused on competing in the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in March.
Jallen, 21, of Harding, took time from her training in Colorado to offer an update on her quest to represent her country in alpine skiing events.
Jallen was born with C.H.I.L.D. syndrome — Congenital hemidysplasia with ichthyosiform erythroderma and limb defects — a condition that affects the development of several parts of the body. The signs and symptoms of the disorder are typically limited to either the right side or the left side of the body.
For Jallen, her left side is affected — as she described, she has “a little arm and a little leg.” She has had to learn how to balance herself. But when she’s on the slopes, she can’t wear any prosthetics so she has learned to use her left side disabilities to her advantage.
Jallen has been battling an ongoing ankle injury since she won two bronze medals at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games — super-G and super combined events — leaving her unable to train or ski until November 2016.
“The pain has prevented me from skiing well,” she said. “I have a lot of work ahead of me.”
Jallen will compete in two European events in January — one in Switzerland and the other in France. She said her goal is to “podium” in as many skiing events as possible. She will compete against international teams — all paralympic participants will be at both events.
Jallen, who will turn 22 on Feb. 13, said she has had several x-rays and MRIs and has an appointment with a specialist on Feb. 1. She said the pain is caused by bone spurs where her leg and ankle bones connect.
“The spurs need to be ground down,” she said. “I’ll opt for surgery after the Paralympic Games.”
Jallen, who said she has done as much as she can, has had past surgeries that haven’t corrected the problem.
She will be back home in Harding at the end of January before she departs for Europe. The U.S. Paralympic team will be selected in February.
The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will be held for 10 days from March 9-18 in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, the Republic of Korea. PyeongChang was selected as the host city of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games after receiving a majority vote at the 123rd IOC Session held July, 7, 2011, after three consecutive bids.
The Paralympic Winter Games will be held in Korea for the first time in 30 years after the Seoul Paralympic Games in 1988. PyeongChang will be the stage for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and most snow sports. Alpine skiing events will take place in Jeongseon, and all ice sports will be held in the coastal city of Gangneung.
After the Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014, Jallen received the Team USA “Best Paralympic Moment” award from the United States Olympic Committee. According to paralympic.org, “Jallen, 18, had an outstanding performance in her first-ever Paralympic Winter Games race, earning a bronze medal in the women’s super-G standing event. Her excitement was contagious at the finish, as she and teammates rejoiced with pure joy.”
The ankle issue has limited her ability to compete. She did not race in a World Cup event until January with only 15 days on snow leading up to the event. She injured her ankle again right before another international race, competed at the 2017 World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, but didn’t make it to the top three in any event.
Surgery would have meant another six months of recovery, which would leave her without enough time to prepare for PyeongChang 2018.
Jallen spent the summer of 2017 at Danko’s All American Fitness in Plains Township, where she worked with head trainer Ernie Baul.
A 2014 graduate of Wyoming Area High School, Jallen is a junior at King’s College but is taking three semesters off to prepare, train and compete in the 2018 Paralympic Games. She is majoring in business and hopes to make a career of motivational speaking.
Her focus now is South Korea, where she hopes to compete in all five alpine skiing events — slalom, giant slalom, super G (giant slalom), super combined and downhill.
To get ready for the Paralympics, she trained with Baul Monday through Saturday doing strength training, aerobics, agility, endurance and balance.
A former Navy SEAL, Baul has trained Jallen since she was 9 years old and said she has always had a great attitude. He’s not surprised she has become a world-class elite athlete.
Baul said with both missing limbs on the same side of her body, Jallen has managed to accomplish what no one else in the world has been able to do.
And as she prepares to compete with the constant pain in her ankle, Jallen remains confident.
“I always try my best,” she said.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.