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Central leads Newman on path to Sochi

General Information | June 30, 2014

by Joe Flaherty '14

PELLA--Central College was only a 365-mile drive from Fox Point, Wis.  for Sarah Newman '01, but it put her on a path that sent her more than 5,000 miles to Sochi, Russia, home of this year's Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Newman worked with the athletes of the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski Team as an athletic trainer.

The journey to Sochi started just over five years ago for Newman when she was offered the position.  She had already been working in the Olympic movement for several years and had made good connections in a variety of roles. After spending two years at the United States Olympic Committee base in Colorado Springs, she accepted a position with the United States Speedskating team in Utah. Newman now spends most of her time headquartered in San Diego at Camp Pendleton where she serves as the director of sports medicine and reconditioning for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Battalion. But her role with U.S. Paralympic Alpine Ski Team has allowed her to stay involved in the Olympic movement.

Newman, who competed at Central as a women’s soccer goalkeeper and women's basketball center before injuries prematurely ended her career, was an athletic training student for the Dutch. The dynamics of alpine skiing in the Paralympics are very complex. Just like their brethren in the Olympics, Paralympic alpine skiers compete in the slalom, downhill and super-G, but there are multiple categoriesin each event. The alpine skiing event categories are based upon the athlete’s disability. Those with visual impairment have guideswho ski with them. There are also classes for competitors who either sit or stand while they ski, with additional categories for other disabilities, including double amputees and even three-limb amputees.

Yet the motivation for Paralympic athletes is the same as Olympians.

“They choose to be an elite athlete and perform at the highest level; doing the same events, performing on the same courses, using the same gear,” Newman said. “It’s absolutely unbelievable and astonishing at what they can do.” 

Newman was astonished by the Sochi performance of 18-year old Stephanie Jallen from Team USA. Competing in the standing events, Jallen was able to pick up two bronzes skiing on just her right leg after having her left leg amputated in childhood. Amercans captured 14 Paralympic alpine skiing medals. Often, the physical aspects of training are the easiest part of the job for Newman and the rest of the medical staff.  

“The biggest challenge is their outlook on life and trying to get them past what they can’t do and focusing on what they actually can do,” Newman said.   

Often these athletes have suffered from traumatic events or illnesses. The medical staff’s primary responsibility  helping the athletes see what they are capable of, rather than focusing on on the negative parts of their lives. Athletic training has long been a passion for Newman. She got her first experience with athletic training early in high school career while helping the athletic trainer there

“I fell in love with it and it came naturally to me,” Newman said.

Along with the opportunity to study abroad and be a collegiate athlete, the athletic training program was a key factor in her decision to attend Central, making her college choice on her initial campus visit, , before she even went on her official tour. The highlight of her Central experience was the semester she spent in Wales through Central College Abroad.

“It was a game-changer as far as (developing an) outlook on life, and being able to get a good grip on who you are as a person and who you want to be as you progress into adulthood and your professional path,” she said.

She credits Central’s athletic training faculty and its hands-on approach for much of her success.

Athletic training education director John Roslien is her mentor.

“ He is absolutely phenomenal,” Newman said “He’sthe reason why I am where I am.”

The full-immersion program design created by Roslien and former athletic training director Leslie Duinink, now a class dean, is integral to the program’s quality she said. 

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