Carl Burnett ’03 is spending an “off” term in Colorado this winter, but he is hardly relaxing — he’s training for the 2002 Winter Paralympic Games, to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Burnett will participate as part of the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team in the Games, which begin March 7. He is looking forward to “competing on the same hill, the same trail as the Olympians,” in the Snowbasin Ski Area.
Burnett first began skiing around the age of three when his parents took him to Sugar Grove Mountain in Maine. He continued skiing even after he was injured in a car accident at the age of five, getting instruction at a disabled ski program in Ascutney, Vt.
Skiing marked a return to normalcy for Burnett’s family, all of whom were involved in the accident. “Skiing was something we could do as a family again,” he said.
With the support of his father, who took him to his first race at Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, Burnett began going to races throughout New England. At 12, he joined the Alpine Junior League Team, training and racing on weekends with the Sunday River Ski Team.
Just a few years later Burnett was selected as a member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, which meets for training camps four to five times a year. Members are also expected to train with another team during the ski season.
As a result of this commitment, Burnett sought flexibility when he was choosing a college. He found it in the D-plan, which has allowed him to be off during the fall and winter terms of both his sophomore and junior years.
Another factor in his decision to come to Dartmouth was the location, an environment similar to that of his hometown, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. “It’s the kind of place I feel comfortable, at home,” Burnett said of Dartmouth.
Since coming to the College, Burnett has found time to explore his other passion — music. He has worked as a DJ for WDCR and served as the station’s program director last summer. He is also a staff writer for The Dartmouth, for which he frequently writes album reviews.
Burnett’s girlfriend, Emily Zaehring ’03, is inspired by his involvement in the community. “He brings this wonderful energy and passion to what he does, and he brings the same energy and passion, even more so, to his skiing,” she said.
This year marks Burnett’s fourth year on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. His status on the team, along with the results of his past races, is what led him to be selected for the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team. While he was “pretty confident” about his chance of making the team, Burnett said he was still “very happy” upon hearing official word of his selection.
“This is something I’ve been working toward since I started racing,” he said.
The Paralympic Games got their start in 1948 when Sir Ludwig Guttmann put together an athletic competition for World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries. The idea caught on, and in 1960, the first Olympic-style games for athletes with disabilities were held.
The Games have grown tremendously since then. The 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta drew over 3,000 athletes from 122 countries. The winter games feature events in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair dance sport.
At the 2002 Paralympic Games, Burnett plans on skiing in all four of the alpine events — downhill, super-G, slalom and giant slalom — and is “looking to do well in giant slalom and super-G.”
A linguistics major, Burnett is planning on graduating in 2005 and is considering a career in music journalism. As for skiing, he said, “I’m not sure how far skiing is going to take me and how far I’m going to take it. When it stops being fun, I’ll stop doing it.”