Athletes in Spartan race full of spirit, drive
By Josh O’Gorman
STAFF WRITER | September 23,2013
KILLINGTON — Vasu Sojitra does more with one leg than you do with two.
The 22-year-old Burlington man was part of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports’ five-person team competing Sunday morning in the Spartan Charity Challenge at Killington Resort.
Part of the Reebok Spartan Race World Championships, the Charity Challenge included a 4-mile run and a host of other challenges, from rope climbs to crawling beneath barbed wire and leaping over a fire pit.
“I’ve never seen anyone move that fast on hand crutches in my life,” said Kim Jackson, director of outreach and communications for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, who has certainly seen quite a few people on crutches in her day.
The Indian-born, Connecticut-raised Sojitra had his right leg amputated as a baby after contracting a life-threatening bacterial infection.
“I lost my leg to septicemia when I was about 10 months old, but I don’t remember any of it,” Sojitra said. “But none of this ever stopped me from doing what I loved. In India, I always played soccer with my friends and brother, who’s a year and a half older than me. Once we moved back to Connecticut, I started to skateboard and play hockey. From that I pick up skiing and the instant I got on my rental ski, I fell in love and never looked back.”
Sojitra was doing some looking back Sunday, said Jim Sweeney, of Tunbridge. Sweeney, along with wife Lindsay Sweeney and Sojitra’s friends Branham Snyder and Spencer Fitzgerald, rounded out the members of Vermont Adaptive’s team.
“There were times, up on the mountain, when he was waiting for me,” Jim Sweeney said of Sojitra. “During the descent, every time I looked up he would be in the clearing ahead of me.”
The Sweeneys volunteer with Vermont Adaptive. Their daughter, 19-year-old Hayley Sweeney, is a client. Eight years ago, Haley Sweeney — who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair — tried sit skiing and never looked back.
“Her whole world opened up to her,” Jim Sweeney said. “Now, some form of adaptive sports is all we do now.”
Sojitra also adapts to pursue the sports he loves. He still plays soccer, but also skateboards, longboards — think skateboarding with, yes, a long board — and used to play hockey.
“Skiing is my passion right now,” he said, enjoying both alpine and back-country skiing at Bolton Valley and Sugarbush Resort. He also volunteers with disabled skiers for Vermont Adaptive.
“I work with people with other disabilities and try to show them just what they can do,” he said.
Sojitra is still testing the limits of what he can do. This past summer, after two years of trying, he waterskied for the first time.
“Whatever I can do, I do it,” he said.