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Gender Equity in Athletics and Sports

Cara Dunne, U.S. Blind Skiing & Cycling

Cara DunneCara Dunne has medaled in both winter and summer Olympic sports. She is both a skier and a cyclist, and enjoys all types of outdoor activities. Dunne's most remarkable feature in the world of sports, however, is that she has raced through these events blind.

Retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye, took Dunne's sight away when she was five years old. Two years later, Dunne tried out her first pair of skis. By nine, she was stepping into the starting gate of a slalom, ready to race.

Dunne spent eight years on the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team, but proved that she could tackle the same challenges faced by able-bodied athletes. In a competition in Vail, Colorado, she showed race staff that she could ski the same "downhill" course as champion skiers Billy Kidd and Holly Flanders. Dunne became the first ever diabled skier to perform at an able-bodied event.

Totally blind skiers must ski with a sighted guide who can direct them down the slope. Most, used to ski with their guide behind them, shouting out directions. Dunne changed all of this after an incident where she skiied toward the timekeeper and knocked him off his chair. She was skiing with her stepfather at the time and they decided to have him ski in front of her. That way she could hear that he had not run into anything and knew that she would not, either. At age eleven, after being ridiculed for her new technique for two years, Dunne was selected to represent the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team in world competition. By this time, all of the U.S. skiers had moved their guides to the front. Once the Europeans saw this, they began experimenting with the new technique as well.

Olympics 1100 logoWhile doing her undergraduate work at Harvard, Dunne stopped racing. It was during this break from skiing that she discovered tandem cycling. Also during this time, Dunne was diagnosed with a secondary bone cancer and fought the disease through surgery and chemotherapy for a year. When it was over, she got to attend a racer development camp for visually-impaired tandem cyclists at the Olympic Training Center. She began training everyday and eventually rode 1,000 miles across Central Siberia in World Ride '95.

After this major bike tour, Dunne was ready to get into tandem racing. She found a sighted partner, Scott Evans, who would race with her. Within six months of their training together they beat the top disabled tandem cycling duo to qualify for the Paralympic Cycling Team. The season ended with their win of a silver and bronze medal in Atlanta.

The last few seasons of bike racing have mostly included race-training, mountain bike racing, and Euro-racing, but tandem cycling is slowly making its way into top competition which excites Dunne greatly. She is hoping to be a contender in the 1100 Olympics. "The prospect of representing the U.S. once again in Sydney is heart-pounding."

[Source: USOC Online]