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By Kim J. Harmon



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By Kim J. Harmon

Disabled or not, Carolyn Lucey had more than enough determination to get up on that water ski last Saturday on Lake Zoar.

“I know I can do this,” she said, floating in the water and resting her arms. The aluminum boom that she had been clutching hung over her head, waiting for her to grasp it and try again. “I know I can do this.”

And she did.

Lucey was just one of several disabled athletes from Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford who took to the water last Saturday at Joel Ziesler’s water skiing clinic. For Ziesler, who has been running clinics for blind athletes off his Sandy Hook dock for more than a dozen years, this was – to a large degree – uncharted waters.

“I have had some experience with physically disabled and amputees,” said Ziesler, “but it’s been on a much higher level. “Teaching beginners is new territory for us.”

Todd Munn, CTRS, the Sports Association Director at Gaylord Hospital, has gotten disabled athletes involved in so many things like the Connecticut Jammers Quad Rugby team, the Gaylord Tennis team, the Alpine Ski Club, the Handcyclers Club, and other sports such as archery, golf and kayaking.

With Ziesler’s program available nearby, water skiing seemed like a perfect outlet.

“We’re just trying to branch out to as many things as we can,” said Munn. “We did some research, had an information night, and found a few other places that do this. But this is more accessible to us with the proximity to Lake Zoar and with (Ziesler’s) resources this was a perfect match. It’s our first day out and we’re pretty excited.”

The athletes may have been dealing with disabilities from multiple sclerosis to T-4 spinal cord injuries, but nothing was keeping them off the skis.

“I’m impressed with how they have been able to adapt,” said Munn.

Karen, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, first attended a water ski clinic at Northeast Passage in New Hampshire and has been experiencing the sport for some five years.

“I love sports and it was just something else for me to try,” she said. “At first it was a little scary, but once you get up (on the skis) you don’t want to get down.”

Lucey, 33, tried downhill skiing last winter and although she suffered a lot of falls while trying to figure out the balance, she soon got the hang of it. She has also tried cross country cycling and horseback riding and water skiing seemed like fun.

“I was definitely quite nervous,” said Lucey, who was also clearly exhilarated from the experience. “Being an occupational therapist, it was neat being able to see this from both sides. I admit, I thought it would be easier than it was.”

Gaylord Sports

Gaylord Hospital routinely holds Discovery Nights to introduce people with disabilities to a new sport through an educational demonstration from an expert in the field. Resources are also provided so people may independently pursue the sport.

Sports and events available to athletes with disabilities include – quad rugby; wheelchair tennis; kayaking; skiing; scuba diving; sailing; the Gaylord road race, a five-mile road race for people of all ages and abilities; and the Gaylord Hospital Open (GHO), a 9-hole golf tournament at The Farms Country Club in Wallingford.

To learn more about the Sports Association, call (203) 284-2772.

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