Grand Falls-Windsor -
Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games
When Pamela Budden was born, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and doctors told her mother Gertie that her daughter would likely never walk, never see, never hear.
"Basically, a human vegetable," a very mobile Pamela said after finishing with a personal-best time of five minutes and 16 seconds in the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games Para-Nordic cross-country skiing event Sunday.
The last time she completed a 500-metre course - last month in her hometown of Gander to qualify for these Games - her finishing time was nearly a full three minutes more than it was Sunday.
"They say kids with a disability can't do anything. Well they're wrong," Gertie Budden said. "Here she is with one, cross-country skiing and winning."
In truth, Sunday's event marked the first real race for Pamela, who began Para-Nordic skiing a little over a year ago at the suggestion of Janeway Children's Hospital recreation specialist Margaret Tibbo, or "Mugs," as Gertie and Pamela refer to her.
Pamela, whose mobility is limited and who needs a wheelchair for longer intervals, uses what's called a sit ski to compete. It is, essentially, a bucket seat with straps attached to a pair of cross-country skis.
With her regular coach Dave Tanton unable to attend the Provincial Winter Games, Central region cross-country coach Paul Langdon followed Pamela along the trail during Sunday's competition.
"I've never tried her positioning, but if I were to equate it to double poling myself, it's probably that much more difficult because your most powerful muscles are in your legs and she's trying to propel her body using her arms," said Langdon.
Making Pamela's task that much harder were trail conditions she described as "horrible." The snow was extremely hard and caused her to slide backwards when tackling a slope, however slight.
Hardened, icy spots along the trail can be a boon on a down slope, but when facing a upward grade, it's a bane for Para-Nordic skiers.
"(Under more normal conditions), snow would stop you from sliding back. On a sheet of ice, as soon as you lift your poles, you start to slide backwards," Langdon explained.
He could offer assistance, but only to keep her from sliding too far back or if she were to leave the trail and land in the brush.
But given her tremendous time and the fact that in the past month she's "got her techniques down and has improved 100 per cent," according to coaches, Pamela is only looking forward.
"Mugs and her coach are going to get together to schedule some training over the summer," said her mother. "She'll need something to sit in and get her upper body muscles developed."
If all goes well, Pamela could be representing the province at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
"I'm really looking forward to Halifax next year," Pamela said.
"That's the big one."