For the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games, which was held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Warfighter Josh Elliott set out to represent his country with pride as an athlete, just as he did as a United States Marine. The Paralympian set a goal of being in the top five, although he quickly points out that he would have loved nothing more to bring home a medal.
Elliott is a para alpine skier and he considers the slalom and giant slalom events to be his bread and butter. Part of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine National Team, 2017 was a pretty busy year for competitions leading up to the 2018 Winter Games. In addition to taking the U.S. Slalom Championship Title, Elliott participated in the World Cup Circuit, which took him to eight countries, including the North America Cup in the U.S. and Canada, as well as races in Europe and South Korea. “Going to South Korea and being able to ski on the slopes that were part of the 2018 Games was huge,” he said.
On the World Cup Circuit, Elliott was able to place third in slalom at the competition in Kranjka Gora, Slovenia. He also finished sixth in both slalom and giant slalom at the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Tarvisio, Italy. The World Championships is, of course, the highest level of competition outside the Paralympics.
Leading up to the Paralympics, he had participated in some Sierra Nevada Summer Camps allowing him to do some giant slalom and Super G training. According to Elliott, Mammoth Mountain had plenty of snow, so they have been able to ski well into the summer months. Elliott focused on building up for the season, which started in November, and prepping for Pyeongchang. His training focused on developing technique, strength and exercise, and diet. Elliott believes if you work on perfecting the technique, the speed will come if you are doing everything properly. “All of this work hopefully ensures that you peak at the right time,” he said.
His best finish in PyeongChang was sixth in the Men’s Super Combined Sitting Slalom, just ahead of his Team USA teammate Andrew Kurka who finished seventh and the highest finish for the U.S. team in that race.
The retired Marine Sergeant got into monoskiing in December 2011 through Disabled Sports USA’s Warfighter Sports program. Just eight months earlier, Elliott was in a medically-induced coma and had lost both of his legs by stepping on an IED (improvised explosive device) during a combat tour in Afghanistan. He spent part of his rehabilitation at Walter Reed in Bethesda as well as Navy Medical in San Diego. “Monoskiing quickly became one of my biggest therapies,” he said.
Before his injury, Elliott enjoyed snowboarding and monoskiing seemed to be a good fit for him. It is amazing to see how far you can take monoskiiing,” he said. “When I watched folks like Laurie Stephens, Tyler Walker, and Health Calhoun (all previous DSUSA participants), I never imagined I would be able to go that fast down a mountain as well.” Although others did, and encouraged him to enter the training program in Aspen, which he did. When he first got into para alpine skiing, the 2014 Paralympics were right around the corner. But he wanted to be realistic with his goals and therefore set his sight on 2018. “I decided I didn’t just want to go to the Olympics, but to go and be a contender,” he said.
“Skiing helped me when I first went off medications and introduced me to a world of opportunities that I otherwise would never have known existed without Warfighter Sports.” Sgt. Elliott said. “Competitive alpine ski racing made me realize my full potential and gave me the drive to continue to live as well as provided me the opportunity to turn my dream into reality.” After the 2018 games, the San Diego resident is planning to retire from competitive skiing and hopes to be able to help others come through adaptive sports programs.