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Adaptive sports finding a home at Empire State Winter Games

Adaptive cross country skiing was one of the new events at the Empire State Games, which lost state funding but thrived with local support.

Adaptive cross country skiing was one of the new events at the Empire State Games, which lost state funding but thrived with local support. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— As the world of adaptive sports continued to grow, organizers of the Empire State Winter Games hope that the annual Lake Placid event will continue to be at the competitive forefront.

Jeff Erenstone, who has worked with the ESG to bring more adaptive sports into the four-day event, said there are many more sports that are starting to include an adaptive element.

“There has been an increase in numbers in the alpine and cross country adaptive ski programs,” Erenstone said. “These events are getting more and more recognition and people are realizing that the stories and events are compelling.”

Erenstone believes a platform like ESG is the perfect place for adaptive sports to start.

“We are looking to add adaptive bordercross, which was just added to the paralympics,” he said. “Adaptive skeleton is at its genesis right now and this would be a great place and venue to help introduce that sport.”

Currently, ESG has competitions in adaptive nordic, biathlon and alpine ski events. Erenstone said that the goal is to include more sports, including the possible addition of sledge hockey in 2014.

“That is something that is very much on our radar,” he said. “The key is to sort out ice times so we would be able to handle another tournament. I can see sledge hockey being a demo event in the games next year.”

Erenstone said that, like traditional ESG athletes, the adaptive features of the games have been a springboard into national and international competition.

“We have had people who have attended, participated and competed in the Empire State Games events that have made it to the paralympic level,” he said.

For more on the events of the Empire State Winter Games, taking place from Feb. 7-10 in Lake Placid, visit the website empirestatewintergames.com.

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