One of the main charms of the Olympics and Paralympics is that most of the athletes are highly relatable. Sure they have physical gifts that most of us don’t, along with an above-average number of stamps in their passports. But in most other respects, the competitors are regular people with ordinary lives—a far cry from the overpaid, overprivileged celebrities who dominate pro sports headlines.
BTW, when we say Paralympians are “regular people with ordinary lives,” we mean they are just as weird and wacky as the rest of us. Here’s a sampling of little-known secrets about Team USA’s 2022 Winter Paralympians.
Hot Diggity Dog
Mike Minor‘s inseparable buddy Dinky has it made. A dachshund-chihuahua mix (aka “chi-weenie”), the pooch travels everywhere with Minor (a gold-medal winning snowboarder) and documents his journeys on his own Instagram feed, @dewtourdinky. Here’s the rambling rover on the World Cup podium in the Netherlands; grabbing breakfast on a patio in Barcelona; scouting out a Mountain Dew Tour skateboard course in Des Moines; catching some rays in South Beach; and cruising streetside in Halloween costume to Steve Nicks. Dinky also makes a cameo in this short documentary about Minor, “Don’t Get Lost in the Zoo.” We have our doubts about whether the Chinese will allow ol’ Dink into the country for the Paralympic Games. Here’s hoping they can’t resist.
When you’re a little kid who dreams of playing quarterback in the NFL, it’s a tough pill to swallow when a younger, better athlete comes along and forces you to switch to another position. It’s even worse when the coach who orchestrates this lineup change is your own dad. So it went for Paralympic snowboarder Garrett Geros, whose gridiron dreams were dashed by none other than seven-year-old Trevor Lawrence. When Geros’ father saw Lawrence toss a 40-yard spiral in a Pop Warner practice, he switched young Garrett to wide receiver. Lawrence eventually led Clemson to a national title and is now the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting QB. Geros, one of Lawrence’s favorite passing targets until he lost his left leg in a high school car accident, hopes to join his childhood teammate in the fraternity of champions during the Beijing Games.
Into the Wing of Things
Judging by Ruslan Reiter‘s Facebook page, cross-country skiing is only his second biggest obsession. His first love is aviation—and it’s not a close call. Reiter’s feed carries nary a word about his exploits on snow. It’s all planes, all the time. This is not completely surprising, given that Reiter is earning an aerospace degree from Montana State University. Here’s Reiter’s account of the maiden flight of his current model airplane, Draco (a Wilga 2000 MA). In another post, he describes a flight in his buddy’s RV10 over some pristine Montana wilderness. And we love this breathless tour of the virtual Airbus A220 on Infinite Flight, a digital flight simulator. You won’t find a bigger airplane nerd at the Beijing Games.
Allie Johnson learned to ski as a toddler. She was introduced to the sport at the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) at Winter Park Resort in Colorado. A congenital upper-limb amputee, Johnson now volunteers at the NSCD every summer as a therapeutic horseback riding instructor, working with disabled kids who are expanding their boundaries and tapping into their potential. “As a woman with a disability, I am often given limitations from people who do not know anything about me,” she writes on her website. At NSCD she teaches young people to reject the limits others place on them. “If I was not born ‘different,’” she says, “I would not have been given this amazing opportunity to live a life that constantly excites and challenges me.”