Canfield to join U.S. Disabled Ski Team
BRECKENRIDGE – At 42 years old, Chris Canfield is still reaching his prime. As a one-legged skier on the Quantum Sports Club masters team, his coaches thought there was something extraordinary about him when he routinely beat most of the able-bodied skiers.
Then, at this year’s U.S. National Disabled Ski Championships March 24-30 at Big Sky, Mont., he caught the eye of U.S. Disabled Ski Team coaches. After Canfield finished the slalom race just three-tenths of a second behind Monte Meier, the fastest one-legged skier in the country, the U.S. Team asked Canfield to join, and he did.
“I signed the dotted line,” said Canfield, who graduated from Vail Mountain School, lived in California for a number of years, then moved to Breckenridge three years ago, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. Canfield owns and operates Telenational Communications, a long distance company based in Omaha, Neb.
“I was racing masters but didn’t really follow the disabled circuit,” he said. “Then, I took second in the slalom (last November) at the (Breckenridge) Ski Spectacular, and third in giant slalom, and the coaches started asking me if I was going to show up at any other races.”
Canfield went on to nationals, where he took fourth in super G and GS and fifth in downhill and slalom, finishing just behind World Cup champion Meier.
“To my surprise, on the last day of nationals, they called me in,” Canfield said. “They offered me a nomination with the team. I worked it out with my wife, and it’s going to start rolling in May.”
Canfield will now juggle his full-time job and family with life as a professional athlete. He begins testing with the U.S. Disabled Team May 4 at the Olympic Training facility in Colorado Springs. The team kicks off on-snow practice a few days later at Arapahoe Basin, moves on to summer camps at Mt. Hood, Ore., then to Copper Mountain in November. He begins competition at the Breckenridge Ski Spectacular in November before heading to Europe for World Cup racing and competing in the World Championships. He said his laptop will be in tow.
“It’s a pretty aggressive schedule,” Canfield said. “I’m going to mountain bike all summer and commit to some additional training. It’s compensation for being a decade older than a lot of these guys. But, I’m thrilled. It’s going to be fun traveling, and I like the people on the team. The World Championships is really my main motivating factor. My goal, I guess, is to surprise some people, and step up to the podium.”
Canfield lost his leg in 1981 in what he calls a “freak deal” resulting from blood clotting following routine orthoscopic knee surgery. Because his wife, Kari, who was his girlfriend at the time, “didn’t allow any self-pity,” Canfield continued skiing on one ski, then moved on to three-track skiing a few years later.
“Up until this season, he hasn’t really raced competitively,” said Quantum coach Olin Armstrong. “But, he’s really kicking butt. He’s probably about the only guy to join the (U.S.) Team who’s a dad and has a full-time life other than racing. Not many of those athletes pursue a full-time job and the Olympics. He is so good, he beats most of our team. He’s a phenomenal freeskier – he’ll go up to Canada and do heli trips. He’s a such a great role model. Even our younger athletes learn so much from him.”
Canfield attributes much of his success to the coaching he’s received from Quantum, which also coaches his 11- and 12-year-old daughters, Megan and Leah. He also said he wouldn’t have done so well at nationals if it weren’t for “the super fast skis” from A Racer’s Edge, and that he’s encouraged every time he’s on the mountain by peers of all ages.
“People will routinely comment (on the one-legged status), but usually it’s favorable,” Canfield said. “The younger kids will always stare, but not in an awkward manner. They’re very curious, and I like to show them how my outriggers work. It’s a positive thing for everyone.”
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