"When I was younger I used to think that American Football was the toughest sport to take part in, but when you're going down a mountain at 75mph on a racecourse, there are not too many sports that can beat that thril."
It is not every day that you meet a former American Footballer turned international skier from the streets of Brooklyn, New York. And it is certainly even rarer that you meet a man with one leg who says he gets a thrill from hurtling 500m down a mountainside at 75mph.
But luckily for www.paralympic.org, a postponement due to high winds in Saturday’s (23 February) slalom competition at the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain presented the perfect opportunity to speak to likeable and popular American Ralph Green.
Having made his international skiing debut in 2004, Green is a veteran of the American ski team and two-time Paralympian having competed at the Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
Born in 1977, Green was a high school quarterback until the age of 16 when he was gunned down in an unprovoked attack while he and a friend walked along a street in his hometown of Brooklyn. The incident resulted in him having his left leg amputated at the hip and brought a premature end to his days playing American Football.
A year later he was introduced to skiing in the Poconos, Pennsylvania and at first was not a fan. However, over time he grew to love the sport and is now one of Team USA’s most experienced skiers following a strict training regime and diet to ensure he remains an elite athlete.
“I got into skiing by being active in various disabled programs in the United States such as Aspire,” explained Green about his introduction to the sport. “Then I became part of the National Sports Centre for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado and it’s gone from there.
“I had never even thought about skiing before losing my leg. I was one of the people who would see a downhill race on TV and think it was intriguing. But growing up in Brooklyn, skiing was probably the last thing on my mind.”
In 2004, Green was part of the USA team that took home 24 medals, including eight gold, to top the medals table at the IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Wildschönau, Austria. He was also the first African American to make the USA para-alpine team.
According to his website, he follows the philosophy “I’m not scared to go fast, not scared to crash, but I learned you have to finish and that’s what I’m doing now. Fear is not a factor.”
Now, after nine years on the team and his third Paralympic Winter Games on the horizon next year in Sochi, Green talks of a great respect for the sport and how his life story can help others.
“When I was younger I used to think that American Football was the toughest sport to take part in, but when you’re going down a mountain at 75mph on a racecourse, there are not too many sports that can beat that thrill,” said Green.
“Growing up in Brooklyn I wanted to do something different and that got me into skiing. I knew in order to be a leader and a pillar in my community I had to do something that was not the norm. So far a lot of people, including family and friends, have recognised what I’ve done and achieved. Now they are now pushing the envelope further in their own lives as a result,” he added.
Green is one of 13 American skiers attending the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina. So far Team USA have won one gold, one silver and one bronze medal to sit joint fifth in the medals table with Sochi 2014 hosts Russia.
Having finished eighth in Wednesday’s downhill and 16th in Thursday’s super-G standing class races, Green was hoping to do even better in Saturday’s slalom until strong winds led to a postponement in competition until Sunday.
An unexpected break in competition means a relaxing day for Green back at the team hotel where he will settle down with a good book before planning his race strategy for Sunday’s slalom.
You can follow Ralph Green’s progress in La Molina and his build-up to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games by following him on Twitter at @bkskiman.
For more information on 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships, including live results , please visit www.ipcalpineskiingworlds.org.
Follow the action on Twitter @IPCAlpine and like the Facebook page Facebook.com/IPCAlpineSkiing.