Labrador City — Pamela Budden can’t stand up for long, but she loves to ski. And she doesn’t have to stand up for long thanks to her sit-ski.
Pamela has cerebral palsy and is a Para-Nordic athlete hoping to compete in the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax in February.
The 14-year-old travelled from Gander to Labrador City for the Cross Country Newfoundland and Labrador Snow Camp from Nov. 27 to Dec. 5.
Pamela competed in the juvenile girl sit-ski 0.6 km freestyle in the last days of the training camp and crossed the finish line at 0:11:30.1.
She’s no stranger to stiff competition and walked away with a gold medal in the Para-Nordic category at the last Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games.
In four years’ time, she hopes to compete in the Winter Olympics in Russia and she plans to study medicine at a university in Pittsburgh to try to find a cure for cerebral palsy.
“I was born with cerebral palsy,” Pamela said.
“They said I wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, and basically (I would) be a human vegetable. (I concentrated on) being myself and trying to overcome the obstacles of everything I’m going through in life.”
She’s had 13 surgeries and years of intensive physical therapy.
Then, two years ago, Margaret Tibbo, a recreation therapist at the Janeway Children’s Hospital, asked her if there was anything she wanted to do and suggested skiing. Pamela’s mom wondered how her daughter could ski if she couldn’t stand up for long.
Tibbo told them about a sit-ski and she’s been skiing ever since.
“It feels kind of weird at first though, right?” Pamela said of the sit-ski.
“After a while you get used to it. There’s a whack of different snow conditions you have to look out for. The snow cannot be sticky, because if it’s sticky your sit-ski will just be there and you get frustrated. That’s what happened yesterday. It was really warm out. So it has to be -2 — it can’t be in the plus (temperatures).”
The contraption is like a bucket atop a mountain board, with ski poles.
“The most difficult part about sit-skiing is learning how to turn when you’re in the track and getting out of the track, and when you tip over, how to get back up,” Pamela said.
It requires her to use her upper body a lot. She said she gets frustrated when she gets stuck in tracks, but she knows she’ll improve with practice.
“There’s a lot of challenges because I often get angry and can’t understand why I have (cerebral palsy) and why somebody else (doesn’t), but then other days I think, why not me?”
She said she gets picked on at school and people tease her about how short she is, but she doesn’t let that stand in her way.
Pamela said she had a close friend who died of cerebral palsy at the age of nine because of kidney failure, and she was a huge inspiration to her.
She said she also made a good friend who’s also a skier who has spinal bifida at a training camp last summer in Halifax. She said it’s comforting to have a person who knows what you’re going through; someone you can relate to.
She enjoyed the snow training in Labrador City and said it’s a place she would consider moving to.
“We have snow and I actually get to train on snow, because out home right now we have no snow, so I can’t train for the weather conditions,” Pamela explained.
Despite the challenges, she encourages others with cerebral palsy to set their sights high.
“You will get over it and grow with life and balance it all when you get older,” she said.
“It’s a great experience if you learn to do something with your disability. Be positive about it, don’t be negative, because being negative only leads to worse things.”