Lake Placid Development Camp Gave Athletes Short-Term Boost, Long-Term Skills
by Alex Abrams
In all the Nordic skiing camps Noah Oliver has attended over the years, he’s become accustomed to being the only adaptive athlete there.
The high school sophomore finally had the opportunity this summer to train alongside other Para standing skiers this summer.
Oliver admitted he was excited and a bit nervous to take part in his first U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing development camp in late July in Lake Placid, New York, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
“At other camps, obviously I’d just try my best, and if I can’t do a certain exercise because I can’t hold onto the bar or something, I just have to accept that and just try to get around it,” said Oliver, a native of Belgrade, Maine.
“But (in Lake Placid) we spent an entire two-, three-hour training session just on adaptations, like figuring out how I can do pull-ups because it was an issue because one arm was shorter than the other. I couldn’t hold onto the pull-up bar.”
Oliver, 15, was one of four standing skiers who attended the weeklong camp for athletes under the age of 23. They were joined by visually impaired athlete Liza Corso, who’s interested in pursuing Para Nordic skiing in addition to being a world-class distance runner.
Corso earned a silver medal in the women’s 1,500-meter race at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. On July 10, she celebrated her 20th birthday by winning another silver in the event at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in Paris.
A few weeks later, Corso was at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, practicing her skiing technique on a pair of roller skis. She also received coaching while working on her shooting for the biathlon.
Gary Colliander, associate director of high performance for U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing, said Corso was the oldest of the five adaptive athletes who participated in the camp.
“You can see the gains they’re making when they’re focusing on training as much as they were in this one-week block,” said Colliander, who served as one of the coaches at the camp.
“But (one of the messages was) for them to then take those resources home and just make sure that they’re consistent with their training and not just going from camp-to-camp. They need to be consistent and keep up with a routine after they leave camp, but then also to understand that there are resources out there for them.”
Colliander said the schedule for the development camp was set up in a way to show the athletes who are relatively new to Para Nordic skiing how experienced biathletes wake up and get their bodies moving early in the morning.
The group started each day in Lake Placid by going on a run at around 7:15 a.m., followed by some stretching and mobility exercises. After breakfast, the athletes went through a morning training session, which included everything from a long hike and roller skiing to shooting drills at the range.
They often returned in the afternoon to do more roller skiing and strength training. The coaches worked with the standing skiers to show them what adjusts they can make in the weight room to continue to exercise with their physical impairments.
“Honestly, I think the strength (training) was one of the best parts that I learned a lot from. I just I learned so much,” Oliver said. “I learned so many adaptations that I can use to make my strength sessions higher quality, and that just helped out a lot.”
While in Lake Placid, the group had the chance to train alongside the U.S. junior national biathlon team and a local ski club, the New York Ski Educational Foundation, commonly known as NYSEF. One of the NYSEF skiers served as the personal guide for Corso, who was born with albinism and is considered legally blind.
“It was really cool. It kind of shows that these athletes can train alongside their home club or any other ski club in the country without any issues, even if they’re just skiing with one pole,” Colliander said. “So it was a really nice opportunity for our groups to combine like that.”
Oliver said he had been to Lake Placid one time before to ski in a high school race, but almost everything about the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing camp was new to him. It was the first time he tried the biathlon, and he learned how to shoot at the range with an air rifle.
Oliver said it was good to have a familiar face with him while training at Mount Van Hoevenberg. Jeff Tucker, Oliver’s coach with the Quarry Road Ski Club in Maine, served as a guest coach at the development camp.
“I hadn’t done anything like that before, but it was also comforting knowing that I had my coach there, someone that I knew,” Oliver said, “because the rest of the people I’d never met before.”
Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to USParaNordic.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.