Katrina Schaber has the handwriting of a 1st grader, she struggles to apply her own make-up, and avoids high heels at all cost. They’re just too difficult. But, put her in boots, on skis and put poles in her hands and watch her fly.
Katrina’s family laughs about her first ski trip. She cried after group lessons and then begged to never go again. It didn’t come easy, but then again, neither did anything else.
“As a child I was very ununorganized very uncoordinated - I could not do hopscotch, jump rope, couldn't button a shirt, couldn't spread stuff on a piece of toast” said Katrina, at Carmel Valley’s Canyon Crest Academy.
The 17-year-old’s early teachers claimed “she didn’t work hard enough”, but her parents were convinced it was more complicated.
They were right and as an 8-year-old she was diagnosed with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy.
A decade later, the clumsy kid who nearly flunked out of grade school is an alternate on the US Paralympic Alpine Ski Tea. Katrina’s talent unlocked only by dedication and good ol’ fashioned hard work.
“Sometimes people when I tell them I have a disability are like ‘wait, you have a disability?’ I’m like ‘you have not seen the years of practice and therapy and surgery that has gone into this’” said Katrina, chuckling as she speaks.
Along with skiing and a rigorous training schedule, Katrina keeps a busy schedule. She plays percussion drums (which helps with coordination), she mentors other disabled kids, and is an Ambassador with Girl Scouts, the highest level in the organization.
She credits Girl Scouts with giving her confidence and skills needed to succeed as a student athlete with a disability.
“Prove them wrong, don’t let them say you can’t do something” said Katrina.
The teenager recently returned home from visiting Sochi, Russia during the Olympics with TD Ameritrade as part of a “future Paralympians” program paid for by the company. Katrina was nominated by her mentor Danelle Umstead, a US Paralympian who competes in Alpine events. Umstead is blind and was recently diagnosed with Multiple Scleroris.
Competing in the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea is Katrina’s ultimate goal.
She doesn’t need to look far to find the motivation as an unprecedented 52 hours of the Paralympic Games are being broadcast on NBC and the NBC Sports Network.
Or she could just look in the mirror.