Joel Reichenberger: Aussie eyes Vancouver
November 22, 2009
When people tell the story, they usually say Dom Moneypenny had a climbing accident, that he fell from a treacherous height in his native Tasmania, was paralyzed below the waist and never walked again.
Moneypenny is quick to offer a correction.
"I fell 30 meters off a cliff," he said. "But we were only walking to the base of the climb. I'd been on that trail hundreds of times.
"When your time's up, it's up."
That was nearly 15 years ago, and it's clear that Moneypenny's time is far from up. He's intent on proving as much this winter as he goes for a combination that Steamboat's massive collection of Olympians could only dream of.
He hopes to represent his country, Australia, in both the Summer and Winter Games.
He fulfilled the first half of that awesome twosome last year when he made the Paralympics field in rowing at the Beijing games.
A sports fanatic growing up, Moneypenny lived only 10 minutes from the beach. Rowing was a natural choice five years ago when he decided to give up a play-anything-and-everything attitude and get serious about Paralympics competition.
His second sport, however, was anything but natural.
"Several years ago, they approached me about skiing and said, 'Have you thought about 2010 in Canada?'" he said. "All that year I had thought they were talking about downhill skiing. They were talking about Nordic, which I didn't even know existed."
Ski slopes are a little hard to come by on his home island, but Moneypenny nevertheless committed.
Committed might not even be the right word. When Moneypenny decides to do something, he does so with an unimaginable dedication.
He quit his job as a research chemist and traveled to Vail. Three days after arriving, he attempted Nordic skiing for the first time.
Nearly four weeks later, he participated in his first race.
"It was a real challenge," he said. "You have to have an aptitude for sports, and you have to have the mind-set."
He made up for his complete lack of experience with a sanity-questioning work ethic.
"I did 60 to 80 kilometers a day," he said. "Some say that's madness, but when you're on such a steep leaning curve, there's so much to learn. You have to keep your mind on the job."
A biceps tear has slowed him down for the past couple of months, and Friday, as he took to the snow at Howelsen Hill to work out with the U.S. Adaptive Nordic team, it was obvious he has work to do.
He said he was happy with his progress, however, and confident that when the Paralympic games open in Vancouver, he'll be ready.
"In Beijing, it was sensory overload. There were 2,500 wheelies there. At home, I'm lucky to see one other one a day," he said. "The Olympics, they're the pinnacle of competition.
"It is an unparalleled experience."