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Federal grant could help US bobsled, skeleton qualify for Paralympics

LAKE PLACID — The CEO of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said a grant it was recently awarded will be used to pay for training camps geared toward introducing the sport to veterans with disabilities, hopefully leading the sport to be included in the 2026 Winter Paralympics.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik on Wednesday announced 126 United States Department of Veterans Affairs grants, totaling $14.8 million.

About $79,000 was awarded to the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation in Lake Placid. Its interim CEO, John Rosen, said the grant will allow the organization to stage training camps for veterans with disabilities to learn the sports of bobsled and skeleton.

“Skeleton is a rather insane sport,” Rosen said, “in which athletes slide head first on a small sled down the bobsled track. These guys hit speeds close to 90 miles an hour with their chins four inches off the ice.”

The bobsled and skeleton organization hopes to qualify as a sport in the 2026 Winter Paralympics. It narrowly missed its acceptance into the top-tier competition for 2022, Rosen said, due mostly to missing the criteria saying teams from 12 nations and three geographical regions must participate. Rosen said it’s not unusual for a sport to take years before it qualifies for the Paralympics.

“These athletes are working very, very hard to become qualified for the Paralympic Winter Games,” Rosen said. “We are looking for serious, elite athletes who want to aspire to the highest level of sport competition.”

There are specific disabilities that qualify a veteran to compete in the Paralympics, but typically the athletes are wheelchair-bound. The Lake Placid organization is now working with amputee athletes to allow them to push a bobsled and then jump in after it’s moving.

“And this is something we’re quite excited about,” Rosen said, “and for skeleton that would be strictly for amputee athletes.”

Kim Seevers, who wrote the grant for the bobsled and skeleton organization, said the money will pay for three training camps. The first starts Oct. 28 and will determine who makes the national team. The second camp is on Jan. 27, in which the new members and veteran team members — there around 15 — will prepare for the Empire State Winter Games schedueld to begin Feb. 1 in Lake Placid. The final training camp is scheduled for March 9, ahead of the national championships in Lake Placid starting March 13. From there, three U.S. bobsled and skeleton team members will compete in the World Cup races.

“These are very intense sports,” Rosen said. “They appeal to a certain segment of the population and not to others, but it is our goal to treat these athletes as real athletes in a real sport.”