The adaptive sports program in the Catskills provides outdoor activity options for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, including our veterans – offering up another challenge to those who have already overcome so much.
“I went into the service in May of 2008. I was deployed in July of 2009 and then was injured February 24, 2010 on a foot patrol through Kandahar City, Afghanistan. A motorcycle was parked on the side of the road and when I went by it, they detonated it,” said Tupper Lake’s Bergan Flannigan.
It’s been five years since Flannigan lost her right leg in that roadside bombing, but one thing she hasn’t lost is her courage.
Flannigan joined a group of combat wounded veterans up in Lake Placid at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Track where we caught up with her on day three of the U.S.A. bobsled and skeleton’s Adaptive Athlete Program. She chose skeleton.
“It definitely feels like you’ve been shot out of a cannon. It’s definitely a slow, you feel, ‘oh this isn’t so bad’ and then you really start flying. I mean, it’s really not for the feint of hear,” she said. “You definitely have to have a little craziness in you to like this sport, but it’s definitely a thrill if you like anything with speed. You would love this sport.”
Before she hits the ice – others, like team U.S.A skeleton athlete Morgan Tracey, have to make sure she has proper form, which can be a little tricky.
“Me being a leg amputee, you have to be able to get your feet off the ice,” said Flannigan. “You don’t want them dragging the whole way down, so actually Jeff my prosthetist built this little harness. I mean, its simple Velcro and a bungee cord and just gets my leg up off the ice just enough to get down the track,” she said.
“It’s a great experience being with people who have gone through the same situation you have. I mean we all like to push each other because we know, say you have a disability and I have a disability. So it kind of cancels each other out. So we’re all both on an even playing field,” she said. “So it’s fun being around other people who have disabilities like yourself.”
Wounded veterans make up a huge portion of the population during year-round events run by the Adaptive Sports Foundation. This is the first time they’ve tried skeleton and bobsled. They worked out a partnership with the Olympic Regional Development Authority to make it happen. Federal funding comes from Veterans Affairs.
“The thing that’s made me feel really good about the program is just most of them at some point or another have come up and just said, you know, thank you for getting this together, however you managed to do it because it’s the most unique, exhilarating experience that I’ve ever had,” said Kim Seevers of the Adaptive Sports Foundation. “I mean, that’s why we do it.”
“It can get you down really easily if you let it. These programs help tremendously to show that we can still do things,” said Flannigan. “You could spiral with these types of injuries but being part of these foundations, these programs that advocate for you to get out there definitely helps. My biggest thing is staying active. I’m definitely not gonna be able to do everything i used to do but I at least can try to do as much as I can,” she said.