Spencer Wood competes in the Men’s Standing Giant Slalom at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games on March 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games and reclassification
But the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang did not go as Wood had hoped. Competing against legends like seven-time Paralympic medalist Aleksei Bugaev of Russia, Wood finished 25th in the giant slalom and he didn’t finish the second run in the slalom.
“After being out for 20 seconds in PyeongChang, I wasn’t too hot,” he confessed.
The following November, Wood was reclassified as LW9-2 after a board of doctors considered his right arm deficiencies. He contested three European Cup races immediately after the reclassification and finished on the podium in the last one.
He was happy to finally see his hard work paying off. Two months later, Wood scored his first World Cup podium – third in a slalom on his birthday. Even better, he was just 1.2 seconds behind American Thomas Walsh, a two-time bronze medalist at the 2019 Para-Alpine World Skiing Championships. At the 2018 Paralympic Games, Walsh finished 16 seconds ahead of Wood in GS (seventh in this race and fifth in slalom).
Wood has yet to beat his friend Walsh in a race (both men attended competitive ski academies in Vermont and are friends). But he skied faster training runs than Walsh, especially in the super-G.
But don’t ask Wood to compare himself to his friend. Three-time Paralympic gold medalist Alana Nichols once advised Wood not to compare herself to other athletes.
“You’re just limiting what you can improve,” Wood recalled, remembering Nichols telling him. “Compare yourself to yourself.”
“It really helped me focus on what I wasn’t doing well and how I can improve,” Wood said.
The major turning point for Wood came last summer. He had just graduated with a communications degree from CU-Boulder and was attending summer training camps in Europe.
“I was like, I can’t go to the next Games feeling like this,” he thought. “I can’t have any more regrets about leaving.”
So he returned to the United States and moved into the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where he mountain biked, trained, ate and slept. Every day, he found inspiration looking at the “ginormous” American flag hanging at the training facility.
“It was a solid six weeks of pain cave,” he said. “I really needed it for my sanity, and it was fantastic.”
While training at the OPTC, he also thought of a good friend of his who had died earlier this summer from fentanyl. It made Wood realize he couldn’t take any day for granted.
“It improved my game when I was in the spring and really helped me focus on my goals, how badly I want to achieve those goals, how badly I need to achieve them because I had so many years of mediocrity,” Bois said. “And I can’t take this anymore.”
Wood also started working with a sports psychologist who made him think about doing something new every day.
“Like the water droplets at the end of the month, at the end of the year, you have a huge bucket full of water,” Wood explained. “It’s called plus one. What’s the most one you work on that no one else is?
While training at the OPTC, Wood kept asking himself, “Can I work a little harder on the mountain bike? Can I get a little more explosive form in the gym? Can I eat more food? Sleep longer? »
In the first NorAm races of this season in Panorama, British Columbia — a slalom, a giant slalom and two super-Gs — Wood did not finish below fifth place and reached the podium twice. He loves speed events and was less than half a second behind Walsh in both super-Gs.
Wood then traveled to Switzerland in December for the first Para World Cup races but suffered a concussion in training. After recovering and then training again at his home in Vermont over the holidays, Wood traveled to Europe again for more World Cups in January 2022.
As for his medal hopes in Beijing, Wood would like to think he’s a favorite to make the Paralympic podium in one of skiing’s four disciplines: slalom, GS, super-G and downhill.
“My heart wants me to be there,” he admitted.
But like most Olympians and Paralympians, Wood is process-oriented.
“My goal,” he continued, “isn’t really to focus on the result, but just on the progress I’ve made and to be happy, to be satisfied that my finish is as good as I could have been and that I did everything I could have done could make my family and my nation proud.