Lindsay Ball’s five-year goal to ski the giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games was accomplished Sunday. That the 22-year-old native of the Central Maine town of Benton didn’t finish the first of two runs down the mountain may be beside the point.
Ball has severely impaired vision caused by retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that damages the retina. She learned how to adapt to the vision loss — she can see light and shapes — for most of her life.
She had less than three months to learn to cope with the torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. Ball suffered the knee injury while training in Colorado after Christmas and faced a decision: undergo surgery which would make her miss the Paralympics or rehab and strengthen the muscles of her left leg and wear a brace. She put off the surgery.
No reason was given for her DNF in reports from Sochi on Sunday, the last day of the 2014 Paralympics. Ball was one of 10 skiers in the first run of the Alpine event and one of four who did not finish according to the Paralympics website.
“Though our first run didn’t end the way we would have liked, we are thrilled for what we accomplished this season,” Ball posted on her Facebook page after the event. “Thank you to everyone out there supporting us. We could feel the love all the way over here in Russia.”
There was no further explanation why she was unable to finish the first run. Her name was not included in the results of the second run.
Ball skies with a guide, Diane Barras, 35, of Bethel, who has also been her coach at the Maine Adaptive Sport and Recreation program at Sugarloaf. Barras, with a speaker strapped to her back, skies ahead of Ball and instructs her as she approaches the giant slalom gates.
Ball and Barras have been part of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team since the 2011-12 season. They won the visually impaired downhill and giant slalom events at the U.S. national championships in 2012 and placed third in the giant slalom in a world cup event that same year.
Ball was injured during a practice run when she fell and felt her knee go the wrong way and pop. She had no prior experience with such an injury but knew something was wrong, she said afterward.
The injury didn’t deter her. Her parents introduced her to downhill skiing when she was 6 to prove to her that her vision loss need not limit her. More recently she has bungee jumped. She graduated from the University of Maine-Farmington with a degree in pyschology in December.