Skiing

Palmer teen makes Paralympics nordic ski team

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: February 2
  • Published February 1

Grace Miller trains with the Palmer High cross country ski team at Government Peak Recreation Area on Thursday. Her left hand is prosthetic and she wears it sometimes while training but not when racing. (Marc Lester / ADN)

A ski coach told Grace Miller about the Paralympics a few years ago. But it wasn't until a December race in Canada, where for the first time she saw others racing with only one arm, that she realized how far skiing could take her.

Next month it will take the 18-year-old Palmer woman all the way to South Korea, where she will compete in cross-country skiing as a member of the U.S. Paralympics team.

Miller, who was born without a left forearm, was one of 13 men and women named to the U.S. Paralympics team for cross-country skiing and biathlon on Thursday. She'll compete in the women's nordic standing division at the March 9-18 Games in Pyeongchang.

"I'm really excited," Miller said. "Nervous, but mainly excited."

Miller is the ninth Alaskan to make a Paralympics team and the first to make it as a nordic skier, according to records kept by Challenge Alaska. The Winter Paralympics are held every four years in the month following the Winter Olympics.

A member of the Palmer High ski team and a senior at Mat-Su Middle College, Miller was born in China and came to Alaska at age 3 after being adopted by Kymberly Miller. She began skiing at age 4.

She made her international racing debut at a World Cup para-nordic race in December in Canmore, Alberta, where she placed 12th in the 5-kilometer freestyle and 11th in the classic sprint.

It was a revelatory experience, she said.

"That was the first time I had ever seen anybody else ski with one pole and with one hand," she said. "It was just amazing."

Miller is expected to be joined at the Paralympics by at least one other Alaskan —Andrew Kurka, the reigning para-alpine world champion in downhill and a member of the 2014 Paralympics team.

Kurka is poised to headline the U.S. alpine team when it is announced late next month.

All-time Alaska Paralympians

Andrew Kurka, Palmer, alpine skiing
Joe Tompkins, Juneau, alpine skiing
Doug Keil, Anchorage, alpine skiing
Grace Miller, Palmer, nordic skiing
Keith Johnson, Anchorage, soccer
Jason Slemons, Eagle River, soccer

Shirley Reilly, Barrow, track & field
Dan Jordan, Fairbanks, precision shooting
Seth McBride, Juneau, quad rugby

Source: Challenge Alaska.

This story has been corrected to include Jason Slemons on the list of Alaska Paralympians. If you know of any athletes who should be on this list, email us at sports@adn.com.

Daily News photographer Marc Lester contributed to this report.