Paralympic spark for Kamloops skier

ASSP student shoots for Beijing

Johnny Sharun and Daylin Levin pose together after their first race in the Friday Race Series. Photo SPIN

On March 15 Kamloops skier Daylin Levin got up half an hour earlier than usual to stretch. Despite loving his sleep, Levin wanted to make sure he was in good shape for his first time competing in the Friday Race Series at Sun Peaks. He was the first visually impaired skier ever to take on the course. 

Levin has been a student of Adaptive Sports at Sun Peaks (ASSP) for seven years, learning how to ski from the ground up with the program.

“My grandma convinced me to try skiing,” he said. “She said ‘if you don’t like it after the first year you don’t have to do it.’”

But Levin learned he liked the sport and continued working with ASSP guides and instructors over the years.

As a visually impaired skier this year he and guide Johnny Sharun practised, worked on drills and skied all kinds of runs. They also practised with new equipment purchased by ASSP which allows for clearer communication between guides and skiers. The UCLEAR system was designed for helmet-to-helmet communication for sports such as snowmobiling or biking but works well for ASSP because of its clear audio, said ASSP instructor Rachael Chubb-Higgins. ASSP was able to purchase the equipment because of a $2,000 donation from the Kamloops Brock Lions Club. 

She added it allows skiers more independence as it gives instant feedback and the student can lead the guide down the mountain.

Levin said his first ever race went well, that the snow was nice and his legs felt strong.

“Today went really well,” he said. “The guide (Sharun) communicated really well.”

The duo have worked well together, they said. Levin said he appreciates Sharun pushing him to do better.

“I won’t push him unless I know I’m comfortable doing it with him,” Sharun said. “But I know I can do it.”

Levin is the first visually impaired skier he’s partnered with but he said it’s working out well.

“I’ve had other guides in the past but Johnny has good speed and drills,” Levin said.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to race but people in and out of the program were telling me that I was really good and should try and I found that I quite enjoy it.”

With the chance to try other, smaller courses previously, Levin was noticed by the provincial adaptive skiing team and told he has potential to compete at the paralympics in Beijing, China, in 2022.

Sharun, who has volunteered with ASSP for four years, said he would like to get to at least one provincial race before the end of the season to start collecting points and that Levin will need to start more dryland training over the summer for them to seriously pursue racing next season.

“If he commits, we commit and we’re all in this together.”

Levin said he’s excited about the idea.

“I’m excited and nervous. I’m pretty sure as long as I train hard I can get there.”

Chubb-Higgins, mother of Canadian Paralympic athlete Mel Pemble, was excited at the idea of an ASSP student attending the games her daughter did in 2018.

“Now we fundraise, for race equipment, skis boots, poles…”

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