Beth Requist is set to make her Paralympic debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, March 7-16.
Two and a half years ago, Beth Requist went cliff jumping.
Now, she’s headed to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games to compete in Nordic skiing for Team USA.
A lot has happened in between.
Requist has always been an adventurer. She grew up snowboarding, running, hiking and cycling. Cliff-jumping, it seemed, was just the next adrenaline rush.
In August 2011, Requist was on a whitewater rafting trip with a few friends when the group decided to jump off of some rocks on the riverbank.
“I ran off of a 40-foot rock and hit the water slightly wrong,” Requist said. “I instantly couldn’t feel my legs. I wasn’t sure what was going on, probably from the shock, so I swam back to the raft. My friend pulled me out and laid me on the side of the raft. We then had to float down the river to reach cell service.”
Requist was flown by helicopter to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood, Colo., where she was rushed into surgery.
The accident ultimately paralyzed her from the waist down.
For the next several months, Requist underwent rehabilitation in Denver. She never doubted that her next adventure would come soon – she just didn’t know in what capacity.
During rehab, a U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing coach visited Requist to talk to her about adaptive cross-country skiing and biathlon.
For some, considering competitive sports so soon after injury would be difficult. But for Requist, the prospect of being active in the outdoors again was all she needed to hear.
“That was probably what first planted the seed,” Requist, a Winter Park, Colo., native, said. “I liked the idea of skiing and shooting a gun. Living in a mountain town where skiing was my life, I wanted to learn to alpine and cross-country ski right away.”
She emailed the National Sports Center for the Disabled, a Paralympic Sport Club based out of Winter Park, to see how she could get involved in snow sports. Though she also expressed interest in alpine skiing, Requist said she started in Nordic skiing because she was unable to alpine ski in her first year out of rehab.
As luck would have it, Nordic is where she found her talent.
“I was drawn to cross-country because I liked how physically demanding it is,” Requist said. “I instantly fell in love.”
Requist also made instant progress in the sport, earning two podiums at the International Paralympic Committee Nordic Skiing World Cup in Cable, Wis., less than two years into her Nordic training.
“I am a distance person, so I also like being able to do long-distance events,” Requist said. “Biathlon is a whole other challenge. You have to be able to be able to enter the range relaxed and bring your heart rate down quickly.”
Her 2013-14 season was no less successful, as she reached the podium twice at the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Championships in Midway, Utah, in January.
“I have very encouraging coaches that know how to push me, but also make it fun,” Requist said of U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Head Coach James Upham and High Performance Director John Farra. “My strengths as a Nordic skier are my positive attitude and good work ethic, and I’m not afraid to work hard.”
On January 29, Requist’s hard work culminated in a nomination to the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team that will compete in Sochi, Russia, from March 7-16. Requist is one of four women on the 16-person Nordic team.
She’s entered the sport at an exciting time for the Paralympic Movement, as NBC and NBC Sports will air an unprecedented 52 hours of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. In addition, all competition will be live-streamed on TeamUSA.org, also a first.
Requist has high hopes both for herself and for the entire U.S. Paralympic Nordic team, a squad which has more than doubled since the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
“What motivates me to compete and train at a high level is wanting to see how far I can take this. I am a competitive person, and I want to be the best I can be in this sport,” Requist said. “I think the U.S. team is capable of winning some medals and being the best team. We are a very close group, and I think it shows.”
But even in her new role as a full-time elite athlete, Requist can’t get enough of the outdoors. When not blazing the Nordic trails, she is also an avid alpine skier and handcyclist.
She hasn’t let her injury keep her from soaring, either. On the one-year anniversary of her cliff-jumping accident, she celebrated her recovery by going skydiving.
A lot has happened since August 2011. Some good, some bad – but that’s life for an adventurer.
And after all the ups and downs, she now has the chance to shine on the world stage.
It’s hard to top that kind of adventure.