2015 DEC - Athlete Profile
By Terri-Lynn Pellegri
Family: Parents, Bob and Alison; Brother, Schuyler, 18
Occupation: Student, Hudson Valley Community College, Troy
Sports: Alpine Skiing, Rowing, Cycling
Hobbies: Apple Tech/Products, Music, Photo Albums
Abigail Radliff is a 21-year-old young woman with a bright spirit and an infectious enthusiasm. She is a student at Hudson Valley Community College, studying for an associate degree in business, with a concentration in marketing and retail. She has been active in many sports, indeed probably more than most, starting with indoor soccer, then skating, baseball, basketball, cycling, and more recently, rowing. But, the one sport that gives her a thrill like no other is skiing.
Abigail has been skiing since she was 10 and was hooked right from the start. However, although she is passionate about it, she skis only about three times a year. Not that the desire is missing, it’s because it takes a lot more coordinating and planning for her than it does for most skiers. Abigail was born with cerebral palsy. Most of her ski days have been at the Adaptive Winter Sports Program at Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne. Their program is an amazing opportunity for young skiers that have chronic and life threatening illnesses, but, unfortunately, at 21, a person “ages out” of the program.
Now, Abigail is eager to ski at more challenging mountains, including Gore Mountain, but the specialized equipment that she needs is not readily available. The sit ski, also known as a bi ski or mono ski, has to be scheduled weeks in advance for her to have her day, and her way, on the mountain. She wants to change that, and has taken it upon herself to raise the money to purchase the equipment for Gore, not just for her own use, but for others as well.
Having this gear will help Gore further establish an adaptive ski program, which it is in the early stages of doing now. The cost of the bi/mono ski is $7,500. Abigail and her fundraising campaign is gaining momentum – at press time, she had raised about $6,400. Check out her Go Fund Me site (gofundme.com/fb5jh69s) to learn more or to support her efforts.
Abigail has many accomplishments she is proud of, with one of them becoming an end-to-ender through the Parks & Trails New York’s Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour in 2014. She is very determined and when she sets her mind on a goal, there’s nothing that will stop her. Sidelined with a broken arm and frustrated she could not ride her bike during the summer of 2013, she vowed she would ride seriously the following year. In July of the next year, she completed a 400-mile bike ride, over eight days and seven nights, from Buffalo to Albany. Travelling along the Erie Canal, she cycled 30 to 60 miles per day, on a tandem bike with her father, Bob. It had been a goal of hers for a year. She trained by using a stationary bike and riding with her father on their tandem bike near their home in Stillwater.
The ride was very physically challenging for Abigail, staying in the same position for hours at a time, and sleeping in tents. After a few days, Abigail wasn’t sure if she could continue, but she persevered. They were assisted by their friend, Randi Walker, and many other volunteers along the way. Bob recalls, “I remember one time when we had to cross raised railroad tracks, a family stopped what they were doing, and helped us get over the tracks. People were rallying left and right… it brought out the best in people.”
Abigail’s interest in rowing was initially sparked by her Stillwater High School gym teacher, Coach Durrant. Shortly thereafter, she connected with the Saratoga Rowing Association at the Adirondack Sports & Fitness Summer Expo in March 2015, and became determined to join that spring. She raced in her first regatta, Head of the Fish, on October 24 and finished in second place by just one second to a peer. It was a modified regatta for adaptive rowers and younger teams, in conjunction with the SRA on Saratoga Lake. “I want people to know that my disability doesn’t stop me. I don’t like it when people treat me differently,” she says.
The Radliffs were very active as a family when Abigail and her brother were younger. They started out with wilderness canoe trips, primarily in the Adirondacks, at Little Tupper, Osgood River, Bog River and others. They also did some hiking early on when they could easily carry Abigail. And the family always had a basketball court in the driveway and plenty of baseball bats and gloves, footballs, soccer balls and other toys to enjoy. An active lifestyle is what Abigail has always known.
In addition, Abigail and her parents, Bob and Alison, are in agreement that being supported by a community of volunteers has encouraged and enhanced her experiences and achievements. Bob said, “It’s certainly one thing that Alison and I appreciate, and Abigail as well, how supportive people often are.” Alison agrees. “She always has a lot of support, she always has good people around her. The volunteers in these programs are awesome.”
Abigail has words of encouragement for others who may be challenged or apprehensive about learning to ski or trying a new sport. “I want people to know that my disability does not stop me. You need to give it a shot… to have fun. You should try it! If you don’t like something, you don’t have to do it again, but you should try!”
Abigail is a remarkable young woman. During the time we spent in conversation at her home, it was clear to me that the friendships she has made through sports are lasting ones. She wanted to thank others for their generosity, to give “shout outs” to so many friends – people that have been important to her. Instead I chose to talk to a few of them to see what they had to say about Abigail.
When I spoke with Double H ski instructor and board member John Ryan, he said, “Abigail is an incredibly determined young lady, an amazing person.” Jimmer Hayes (Athlete Profile, March 2015), assistant program director at the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham Mountain and winter program consultant at Double H, said it beautifully, “Listening to Abigail’s laughter while skiing down the hill is very refreshing in this day and age. I get to share my love of the mountains with someone who enjoys it as much, if not more than I do. That makes it all worth it.”
Consider taking a minute to check out Abigail’s site (gofundme.com/fb5jh69s), to learn more about her and support her campaign to purchase adaptive ski equipment for Gore.
Terri-Lynn Pellegri (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Saratoga Springs, she is a photographer and a writer, and shares a passion for skiing. She is employed at the Alpine Sport Shop.