LAKE PLACID -?To be an Olympian, in particular to have a chance of reaching the podium requires an all-out commitment as evident by locally familiar images of Andrew Weibrecht, Bill Demong, and Tim Burke - an effort that has at times sidelined most of them as, unfortunately, is the case for Tommy Biesemeyer, who no doubt will be pushing every bit has hard if not harder next year.
That determination is well on display at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts with its new exhibit, "Olympic Inspirations: Celebrating the Olympic and Paralympic Games," which opened on Friday, Feb. 7.
Stunning to see are the photographs and examples of equipment used by the athletes participating in the Paralympics, men and women every bit as fiercely competitive as their able-bodied counter parts.
Jeff Erenstone is the owner of Mountain Orthotic and Prosthetic Services who designed and built the prosthetic equipment on display and being used by Paralympians. (Photo — Naj Wikoff)
"This exhibit is a celebration of the Olympics and the Paralympics," said Diane Reynolds, board chair of the gallery committee. "We decided about six months ago that we really wanted to include both. This year, NBC is going to have 106 hours of the Paralympics coverage, which is a first. I have gained tremendous respect for all athletes but especially when I consider how difficult it is to do these sports with all arms and legs that the Paralympians do with less."
"Paralympian Chris Waddell, who is featured in some of these photographs, is coming to Placid in March," Reynolds continued. "He is an unbelievable young man. He had his injury when he was about 19. He skied with my middle son and went on to do fabulous things such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2009 and becoming a 12-medal Paralympian. He is a real inspiration to kids. Chris will visit the Lake Placid School system on Monday, March 3rd and Tuesday morning at the Art Center for Northwood and other schools. Keene is coming up to be with the Lake Placid people."
"It is truly amazing that they can do what they do," said Olivia Reynolds, fresh from winning a bronze medal in the Empire State Winter Games. "Looking at the pictures, it doesn't seem real, like the one at the top of the blind man skiing. It is amazing what they can do. With the improvements in technology, even more can participate. I think the exhibit is great."
"I have a day job and a side job you might say," said Jeff Erenstone, owner of Mountain Orthotic and Prosthetic Services. "Day job, I have a medical practice that serves amputees of the area with prosthetics or orthotics, which is the other side of my field; back braces, knee braces, braces so that people with paralysis can walk again. On the other side, I am an adaptive sports design expert. I have made equipment for the U.S. Paralympic Team. They have commissioned me a couple times to come up with some binding systems which will be used in Sochi."
"I did a one-up design for Dan Cnossen, who is racing in the Paralympics on the Nordic Ski Team this year and has a decent chance of getting a medal. I had to integrate his prosthetics with his sit-ski so he could get a more advantageous position of getting his weight more over his skis and get more power through it. I have developed the XO Skeletol for the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, a frame that goes around a person's legs so when a paraplegic is doing skeleton sledding, their legs don't fly all over the place, it controls them and holds them in the right position, keeps their feet off the ice."
"I have learned tons from the athletes," continued Erenstone. "When I start working with an athlete, I spend a lot of time with them. Yes, I can have some ideas and some principles, but they have spent hours and hours training and thinking about what they want, the type of device and the improvements. Asking them just, 'What do you want out of a device?' gets you so much further then coming in bullheaded and say, 'Oh, we are going to do this.' You have to ask them, listen to them, watch them train, see what they are going to do, and what they want and then work from there."
"These photographs are spectacular," said Ed Finnerty. "These are world-class athletes who are putting it out there just as much as the able-bodied athletes. If you look at the photos of Andrew Weibrecht and a Paralympian, there is no difference; they are both out there, both totally committed. Their training is just as arduous. It is not a casual endeavor. It is fantastic, and they are just scratching the surface. Unfortunately, there is this whole pool of men and women coming back from the war who are going to be looking for something to put their energies into, and I think what lies in the future is going to be amazing."
"The Paralympians are pretty impressive when you realize what they go through to make it down a steep mountain in one of those things," said Jon Prime. "How do you stop yourself?"
"I love this exhibit," said Macie Huwiler, the Art Center's new director of development. "I was able to be here all week when Diane Reynolds and Caroline Welsh were putting it together. It was fascinating to watch that creative process. I am excited to see these photos of Chris Waddell and know that he is coming to speak to the kids of our schools. That's just amazing. He is truly inspirational."
Olympic Inspirations was organized in cooperation with the Olympic Museum, which has a Paralympic display as well.
The LPCA Gallery is open 1-5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, and the Olympic Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.