The Final Run: Paralympian Tyler Carter Reflects on His Final Alpine Season and What The Future Holds
by Tyler Carter
Tyler Carter poses for a photo during Jan. 2019 in Winter Park, Colo. Photo courtesy of USA Paralympic Alpine Skiing.
Not many people know how long and difficult the journey of becoming an athlete is. It demands everything from you with only the smallest chance of success. It is equally an unrelenting grind and something that you can never stop thinking about. It is with those thoughts in mind I approach my attempt at making a third and final Paralympic Team for the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
I would have thought that after skiing for nearly 20 years and racing for 15 years, including competing at two previous Paralympic Games in 2014 and 2018, things would be a little easier. That hasn’t been the case.
The past three years have been the hardest of my life. They have been plagued with injuries and countless setbacks. It hasn’t been easy to keep up the grind. Most would look at success as winning a medal, preferably being gold. That is the ultimate goal. That is my goal. I dream about it every night and it burns in my thoughts as I train.
However, I have learned over the years that success can and often should mean more. It is giving 100% of your effort. Doing your absolute best, no matter what form that takes. At the end of the day. if I can look back and say I did everything possible and left it all on the field (or slopes), then I was successful.
If it is not apparent yet, my biggest hope and goal is to make the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Team. It is what drives and motivates me every day. But beyond that it is exciting to look at how the Paralympics have grown. The Olympics have been around forever, with the Ancient Games starting in 776 B.C., Modern Olympic Games revived in 1896, and the Winter Olympic Games debuting in 1924.
The Paralympics, in comparison, officially began in 1960 for summer and 1976 for winter. With the Paralympics being newer, it has taken time to develop and become known. With each Games, we see increased viewership, interest, and new athletes introduced into sport. It is an exciting time to be following the Paralympics and I look forward to how Beijing continues this trend.
World and USA rankings have always determined the The U.S. Paralympic Games Teams for Alpine Skiing. This is true again this season, but there is a little twist - all Para Snow Sports have World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway this month, January 2022, after being postponed last season.
In my career, I have never had World Championships and a Paralympic Games in the same season. In normal circumstances the World Championship are the season prior or the season after a Games. This allows time for athletes to reassess and adjust. All of that is out the window this time around, meaning those who perform well in January will likely punch a ticket to Beijing.
It’s wild that 3.5 years of training will come down to one month of racing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous or anxious but also mixed with a sense of excitement. It’ll be great to be racing internationally again and having all Para Snow Sports together for a huge event is incredible for the movement. Plus, I have always wanted to visit Norway!
Tyler Carter competes during the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on March 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
No athlete gets to the Olympics or Paralympics by themselves. It is a monumental team effort to get to the games and I am beyond grateful to those that have supported me all these years. I was recruited by the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, CO, what feels like a lifetime ago. My coaches saw something in me that I would never have thought possible, and I appreciate their unwavering support.
The team at the NSCD has repeatedly stepped up when I needed them and has never let me down. I must also thank my family and friends. Without their encouragement, I would not have made it this far. Long ago, my parents told me to follow my dreams and not give up. This eventually turned into my personal motto which is “never ever give up, because you accomplish amazing things if you try.” I am eternally grateful their belief in me and this crazy journey.
This is my last season. It is bittersweet, yet there is not a doubt in my mind that this is the right decision. I have been on this path for a long time and honestly am exhausted. For the past year and a half, I have been balancing working a full-time job at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and training full-time. I love my job, but I don’t recommend being a full-time athlete and working full-time. It is a lot!
Despite this, at the end of the day my determination and will to do whatever I need to do to achieve my goals outweighs almost everything. 5 a.m. wake up times for the gym and communing back and forth from work in Colorado Springs to training in Winter Park (a 2.5-hour trip one-way) have caught up to me. I don’t remember the last vacation I had, and I rarely have a true day off. But this is my last hurrah, and I am all in.
As the past few years have taken their toll, I came to the realization that I can’t do this forever. There’s a part of me that would love to keep going. Hurling down icy mountains is fun! But there are other things I would like to achieve in life. I want to build a professional career and make a difference in the world. As my final season is quickly fading there are a few final things I hope to accomplish. But at the end of the day, I am happy with what I have been able to do in this sport and look forward to a long overdue vacation.
I have been incredibly lucky and blessed. I’ve had dreams turn into reality and opportunities of a lifetime. As I have been able to pursue my goals it has become a personal passion to help others on their paths. I’ve made it my mission to partner with like-minded organizations to promote positive values such as living healthy and active lifestyles. It is amazing to talk with students from Classroom Champions or visit youth athletes with TrueSport. This is honestly the best part of the journey!
I have learned much over my years as an athlete and have made my share of mistakes along the way. My hope is to help others learn and grow to make a difference in their lives. Being an amazing athlete is great but being an amazing person is truly special.
This is the ending of one chapter and the exciting start of a new one. And if there is anything to take away from all of this, it is an overwhelming sense of gratitude and the hope that everyone discovers their own passion in life - as that’s what matters most.
Tyler Carter or TC (as his friends call him) is a 2x Paralympian for the United States in alpine skiing. In addition to being an athlete, he works at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tyler enjoys promoting healthy and active lifestyles among students and schools through his work as a motivational speaker and TrueSport Ambassador. He is currently training to represent Team USA in alpine skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.