So recently doused, the Olympic flame will be rekindled again today for the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
So will the dreams of cross-country skier Sean Halsted, of Rathdrum, who will be competing in the 10-day event.
Since a pair of top-10 finishes four years ago in Vancouver, the 43-year-old Halsted said he’s “been training harder than ever, but I’m still in the same place in the field.”
For Halsted, those fields have expanded this year to six events: the cross-country sprint and 10- and 15-kilometer races, plus the short-, middle- and long-distance biathlon races.
Halsted was born in Spokane and graduated from Mead High School and Washington State University, where he was an all-Pac-10 Conference rower. But in 1998, during an Air Force search-and-rescue training exercise, Halsted fell 40 feet from a helicopter and shattered a vertebra. He lost most use of his legs.
Craving activity – he lives by the J.R.R. Tolkien motto, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” – Halsted got back in the game.
Halsted embraced sports, including sled hockey, handcycling, swimming and downhill skiing, but he has made his biggest mark on skinny skis. At Vancouver, he finished seventh in the 10K event and ninth in the 15K; two years later, he placed fourth at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Final in Sochi.
Most recently, at the World Cup championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, he finished 10th in the cross-country sprint while placing on the podium in two biathlon events.
Based on those results, Halsted, the top American in the field, figures he has “an outside chance at medaling. I just want to put forth my best effort.”
After Sochi, he plans to return to Rathdrum, where he and his wife, Sarah, are raising three children.
“Training, racing and trying to keep up with kids – that’s been going on for a while,” Halsted said.