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Sean Halsted (BΨ, Washington State '92)
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The Fastest Phi Kap on the Mountain

On March 9, another opening ceremony will grace PyeongChang and kick off the 2018 Paralympic Games. Among the athletes will be Phi Kap and three-time Paralympian Sean Halsted (BΨ, Washington State ’92) competing for a medal in adaptive Nordic skiing and the biathlon.

The Air Force veteran and father of three has overcome tremendous odds to become an Olympic athlete. After a tragic fall during a search and rescue training exercise shattered his L1 vertebra and left him without the use of his legs, he found himself with two options: waste away in a wheelchair or persevere.

With the help of the VA, after two grueling years of surgeries and physical therapy, he took up adaptive skiing. “I had always been a skier,” he says. “After my injury, I had to learn how to be active like I was.”

By 2004, he was skiing competitively, and in 2006, Sean joined Team USA as an adaptive cross-country skier.

For Sean, PyeongChang is just another race. The lifelong athlete seems to relish competition, whether on the Snake River as a WSU rower or in the Olympics, where he races long distance (15 km), middle distance (10 km), middle-distance biathlon (7.5 km), and sprint (1 km).

When his coach suggested dropping out of certain races to focus on others, he scoffed: “It’s 100 percent all day, every day. I’m not flying all this way to do ten kilometers.”

He has enjoyed some exposure as a local celebrity in his hometown of Spokane, Washington, since competing in his first Paralympics in 2010. The thought that he could recuperate from such a debilitating injury to become an Olympic athlete is ostensibly a source of inspiration to many.

Notoriously quiet, Sean prefers to use his story as a platform to inspire others. He says he never felt like what he has done allows him to tell others what do to. Instead, he wants to be an example.

“When I show them or when they see me, they get that this is what we can accomplish.”

Sean’s rankings have only gone up since he started competing. In the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he placed 7th, 9th, and 10th in the 10 km, 15 km, and Nordic sprint, respectively.

“Doing it professionally,” he says, “I can get more exposure, have a bigger voice, and show people what they can do.”

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