Through the years, Luba Lowery heard the inspiring stories about athletes who competed in the Paralympic Games.

A competitive skier herself, she dreamed of joining them, of telling her own story.

This week Lowery, a longtime Cumberland resident who lost a leg to a congenital bone defect at age 8, got that chance.

Lowery, 22, raced in her first Paralympic Games at Whistler Mountain, the site of the Vancouver Olympics, as one of the two Maine natives to qualify for the games.

She joined veteran Carl Burnett, 28, who is competing in his third and final Paralympic Games. Both compete as monoskiers, also called a sit-ski.

Both also attended Gould Academy in Bethel.

“In the Olympics a lot of athletes go through the same process. For Paralympians, we all have different injuries, different ways we learned how to ski, different ways of how we got here,” said Lowery. “It’s been my dream to be here since I was 11. I don’t want to leave.”

Lowery wrapped up competition Tuesday.

She finished seventh in Sunday’s women’s slalom sitting division and ninth in the women’s giant slalom Tuesday.

She is spending the remainder of the games cheering on friends, enjoying life in the athletes’ village and celebrating with her family.

At the conclusion of the closing ceremonies, she will head back to the University of Denver, where she is studying Russian and international studies.

Burnett, a Cape Elizabeth native who now lives in Bend, Ore., is still racing.

He was 14th in the men’s giant slalom sitting division and ninth in Sunday’s slalom — the top American finisher in both. He was a Did Not Finish in the super-G on Friday and will be in the super combined on Sunday.

Burnett was paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident at age 5, and has been racing on a monoski since age 12. He competed at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin, Italy, in 2006.

“I sort of know what to expect now from a Paralympic race,” said Burnett. “The race itself is just like any race we do during the season. But when you get to the finish line there’s a couple thousand people there cheering you on, cameras. I’m really glad to be here.”

Burnett has plans to go to graduate school to be a librarian, and was checking out the campus at the University of British Columbia this week. Sunday’s competition will mark his final race in the Paralympics.

“This will definitely be it for me,” said Burnett. “I’ve had a great run and I’m ready to move on to new things.”

Both are joined by friends and family. Burnett counts 15 supporters in total, who have overlapped.

“It’s really been phenomenal,” said Marcia Lowery, Luba’s mom.

“It’s something she’s been working on for all her life. To finally see this happen for her is just wonderful. And the whole spirit of the games is something you really have to experience to explain it.”

Lowery said the most moving experience for her was the opening ceremonies March 12. Athletes enter the same stadium as the world’s Olympians did last month, to the roar of cheering spectators.

“There’s not enough words to describe what it was like walking in,” said Lowery. “But that’s when it hit me I was a Paralympian.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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