Disabled skier hopes to inspire others

March 23, 2011 7:49:59 PM PDT
Disabled American soldiers were learning how to ski Wednesday at Lake Tahoe. Tahoe TV shot video of the Wounded Warriors project. It is part of an entire week of rehabilitation camps put on by the Disabled Sports Center at Alpine Meadows. The idea is to focus on what people can do, not what they can't.

Almost 10 years ago, doctors told Cameron Clapp he would never walk again, Wednesday he was skiing.

"Don't let anything ever stop you, if you have a passion, go get it and do it and never give up," Clapp said.

When Clapp was just 15 years old, he was by a train near his home in San Luis Obispo. It was a miracle he survived at all, but he lost three limbs.

"Two legs above the knees, my right arm almost to the shoulder," Clapp said.

It could have been a tragedy. Instead, modern technology and Clapp's unstoppable spirit have turned him into a legend in the world of "can do" athletes.

"I've been out of wheelchair for nine years now," Clapp said.

First Clapp learned to walk on specially made prosthetic legs, then he started running. Hanger, a prosthetics company, started working with Clapp two months after his accident.

"They custom make a prosthetic socket made out of carbon fiber," Clapp said.

It was a long slow process of physical therapy, fine-tuning the sophisticated technology and getting used to knees controlled by microprocessors.

"I have different prosthetics for different activities, so there are the legs I bolt on for skiing, which are ski feet that clamp down into the bindings of the skis," Clapp said.

Clapp was the first triple amputee to ski standing up.

"It was difficult, very frustrating at first, you now know it's hard to keep your balance, let alone with two prosthetic legs," Clapp said.

Cameron has traveled all over the United States, inspiring others to overcome whatever challenges them.

To make the day even more special, Clapp happened to run into a buddy named Jake Speed. They first met two years ago. Speed lost his arm and part of both legs after he got caught in a blizzard in Greenland. He was flown to UC Davis, where Clapp came to see him.

"He was the first amputee I met, he came to my bedside and basically told me, 'Hey everything is still possible,'" Speed said.

Now Speed has special ski feet too.

"He is the main motivation aspect of why I'm even out here right now," Speed said.

Clapp wants to do the same for others. His goal is to become a motivational speaker for young people. He calls himself a "high-activity patient," but the word "patient" just doesn't seem quite right.

"No hesitation, that's the name of the game," Clapp said.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney

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