Today’s guest post is particularly inspiring. There are many stories out there about bravery and courage, sometimes in lasting critical seconds – the fiery crucible in which heroes are forged. This hero didn’t just survive the fire, but continued to display resolve in the face of adversity, refusing to admit defeat. So without further delay…
By Katie Leimkuehler
Some stories you just can’t shake—especially when that those stories are in your bloodline. There are thousands of people who have changed the world and left their mark, but this story—the story of turning a disadvantage into an advantage–has not only changed my world view, but countless others by turning hope and perseverance into action.
Paul Leimkuehler, my grandfather, had it all – the girl, determination, talent, and spirit. Then his world was rocked. During the Battle of the Bulge, Leimkuehler lost left leg. But that didn’t stop him.
While his friends skied at Seven Springs Ski Resort he met a ski instructor who showed him the video Miracle On Skis. Miracle On Skis focused on giving amputees the chance to ski in Europe. This sent Leimkuehler’s determination through the roof. He designed his own set of outriggers. (Outriggers are used to assist with balance, turning, speed, and stopping for skiers.) His outriggers were made of sawed-off crutches attached to shortened children’s skis. Leimkuehler purposely didn’t patent this design so it could be used by others in the adaptive sports community. He worked with Head Ski Company to provide equipment to amputees to build their own sets of outrigger poles, also known as three-track skiing, and eagerly shared his drawings and measurements with anyone who was interested.
Soon after my grandfather was well known in the adaptive sports community. By the 1960’s, he served as an adviser to the founders of the National Handicapped Ski Race, which focused on developing disabled ski programs at several resorts. In 1981, Leimkuehler was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame for his pivotal role in the amputee and adaptive skiing community. This is also where he received the nickname of “The Grandfather of Handicap Skiing.” Leimkuehler was also inducted into the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame in 1996 for his accomplishments, and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
Today Paul Leimkuehler known as the “Father of 3-Track Skiing,” is considered a pioneer in disabled skiing in the U.S. thanks to his outrigger design that has allowed millions of amputees to ski for generations to come.
I’m currently working on a documentary about the legacy my grandfather left. If there was one lesson I’ve taken away from learning about the life of my grandfather, it’s the fact that no true obstacles can stand in your way of hardships or opportunities if you let them.