Only a month after the world’s best gathered in Sochi to compete, the world’s best are there again — and a local hero is among them.
Eighteen-year-old skier Stephanie Jallen is in Sochi, Russia, preparing to take part in the Paralympic Games, which open Friday.
“I don’t think it’ll set in yet,” said Jallen, a Wyoming Area senior, last week before her flight to Russia on Friday. “I know I’ll get excited.”
The training regimen for the U.S. national champion in the downhill is a strenuous combination of physical training and work on the slopes. She recently completed a trip to Utah for ski runs in preparation to represent the United States in Sochi.
Her trainer, Ernie Baul, has worked with the skier for eight years and pushes her to the limits.
“Training is training. You gotta get through it,” Jallen added.
Her training when in Northeastern Pennsylvania includes spending three times a week at Danko’s All-American Fitness Center in Plains, working on strength, conditioning, and endurance.
The hectic schedule heading into her events in Sochi has taken its toll on Jallen.
“I’m really tired from non-stop running,” she added.
Nothing comes easy for her, as Jallen had to manage her time wisely with school and other obligations. As famous in the region as any football star, she was featured on radio and TV in the days leading up to her departure for Russia.
Jallen was born with a rare child defect called Congenital Hemidysplasia with Ichthyosis and Limb Defects (CHILD) Syndrome. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are only about 60 reported cases, and nearly all affected are female.
Hemidysplasia means it affects half of her body. The limb defects affects her left arm and leg.
As an infant, her left leg was amputated and her left arm is very short. But the condition does not stop her from doing anything, as the teen plays basketball and soccer for fun.
At times, she could not wear her prosthetic leg, so she hopped and earned the nickname “Hopper.”
It all started when Jallen was 9-years-old. She received an invitation for a learn-to-ski event for the disabled, the Camelback Adaptive Ski Camp in Tannersville, and after she went, Jallen was hooked.
By 15, she had earned a spot on her first national Paralympic ski team. She is currently the second-youngest member of the national team.
Now, skiing offers a unique escape from the everyday for the teen and has allowed her to see many parts of the world. Her focus on the slopes now takes her to Sochi for the first time.
During this year’s Winter Olympics, she studied the hills on TV to get an idea of what she would be up against. She has a unique way to get in the zone when she’s skiing.
“I put useful thoughts in my mind,” Jallen said, though she couldn’t describe a specific thought. “It kind of changes.”
She will compete in the slalom, super-G, giant slalom, and super-combined events at the Sochi Paralympics. The best in the U.S. in the downhill also enters the super-G as the national runner-up. She won a national championship in slalom in 2012.
After her time in Russia, she plans on attending King’s College in the fall for business management and marketing. Sochi could be her final races for a while.
“I’m gonna focus on school and give my body a break,” Jallen said. “I’m gonna go there (Sochi) and have fun!”
She could return to skiing someday, but is not sure what the future holds.
The opening ceremony will be broadcast live at 11 a.m. on NBCSN on Friday, as will the closing ceremony Sunday, March 16, at 3:30 p.m.
Two of Jallen’s events will be shown live on NBCSN. The the super-G is Monday at 2 a.m., and the giant slalom is March 16 at 4:30 a.m.
A Sochi Paralympic Winter Games review show will be broadcast on NBC on Sunday, March 22, at 1 p.m.