Posted: Mar 20, 2013 1:40 PM by Tara Oster - MTN News
WHITEFISH - One of Whitefish's own is gearing up and counting down to Sochi Russia and the 2014 Paralympic Games.
Montana native Lucas Grossi started coordinating and competing in snowboard events in 1999, but they aren't the typical competitions you've probably seen before.
"I'm actually an amputee from about five inches below the knee. I lost my leg in a car accident back in 1988," Lucas explained.
Just four years later Grossi became an adaptive snowboarder.
"[I] finally figured out how to get a prosthetic that would actually work for snowboarding," Lucas said.
He started finding people from around the world who, like him, used some form of adaptation in order to snowboard and coordinated a competition.
"The first adaptive snowboard competition was in 1999 in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire," Lucas recalled.
He coordinated and competed in these events for about 10 years, working up to a fourth place ranking nationally, and sixth place internationally in boardercross.
He's now testing out a new technology - a pneumatic and hydraulic ankle.
"So, as his ankle bends up and down, it helps to control those motions so that it's not throwing him around so much as maybe a traditional prosthetic foot would," explained Greg Schneider, a research and development prosthetist.
Lucas is the first below the knee amputee in the U.S to try out this new foot made by the German company Ottoboc, which isn't yet available to the public. But it could improve the sports of adaptive snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding and surfing.
"He's an example that I can give when I meet with other clients. I can explain what will be possible. When you have an amputation there's a lot of uncertainty and not knowing what you're going to be capable of doing again," Doug Jack with Northern Care Prosthetics & Orthotics said.
For adaptive snowboarders, it's been a tough fight trying to get the sport into the Paralympic Games, but finally in 2012 the International Paralympic Committee announced the inclusion of the sport in 2014.
That's an exciting possibility for Grossi.
"For me this is really a chance to actually just fully enjoy something that I helped create for a number of years."
He'll be looking to qualify for the Paralympics at the upcoming World Cup Big White in Kelowna, British Columbia.
The addition of two medal events for adaptive snowboarding in the Paralympics brings the total medal event count to 72 for the 2014 winter games.
Follow Lucas' journey to the Paralympics on his website.