Disabled skier lives full life

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When Ralph Green began skiing competitively in 2000, his goal was simple.

"I want to be the best ski racer ever," Green said. "Not the best disabled ski racer ever -- but the best ski racer ever."

The 27-year-old's resolve struck a note with Rick DeVos, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's executive director, and prompted him to invite Green to speak at 7 p.m. today at Olympian Hall.

"Basically I will be there to tell athletes how they can live better lives and how people can be better people," Green said.

Green's story began 11 years ago, far from the ski slopes on the urban streets of Brooklyn.

At the time, Green, an all-around athlete, wanted to be the best high school quarterback he could. But a random shooting changed his life forever.

Green and his best friend were shot while walking along a street in Brooklyn.

Green was hit in the back and lost a huge amount of blood before arriving at the hospital.

When he arrived, he underwent 27 surgeries and spent three months in intensive care. He lost his left leg at the hip but never lost his desire to pursue life.

"I never got down," Green said. "If I did, my friends and family wouldn't let me get down."

He said his friends never looked at him any differently, and they treated him the same way they had before he was shot.

After being released from the hospital, Green returned to school, life and sports.

A group that encouraged people with disabilities to take part in sports offered Green the chance to compete again. He started with summer sports, but at 17 he was introduced to skiing.

Green admits he didn't instantly fall in love with skiing. After high school, Green moved between New York and Winter Park a couple of times before catching the skiing bug.

"That's when it stuck," Green said. "I said, 'I'm skiing until I'm the best.'"

In 2002, Green won a World Cup in Canada, and he placed in the World Cup's top 10 twice last season.

He said he was excited about speaking in Steamboat, a town built on a skiing tradition, and about the chance to come back this winter to compete in the disabled World Cup, which will take place Jan. 10 to 13 on the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area and Howelsen Hill.

DeVos said he is excited to have Green in Steamboat today because he feels the skier has a valuable lesson to pass along to everyone who comes to hear him speak.

"Things are not always going to go the way we plan in life," DeVos said. "He's a great example of how to meet adversity head on. Sometimes that's what it takes."

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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