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Utah athlete to receive highest Paralympic honor

By Amanda Butterfield | Posted - Mar. 12, 2010 at 5:07 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A retired Paralympic skier, who moved to Utah after the Salt Lake City Paralympics, is on her way to Vancouver to receive one of the highest honors in the Winter Games.

Tanja Kari loves to be outside, on skies, and she's good at it. "I have won 12 medals: 10 gold, and a silver and bronze," Kari said.

That's just from the Paralympics. She's also medaled in the European championships and World Championships and competed with "able bodied" skiers in the Finnish National Cross-Country Championships. Now, she's being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Who is... Tanja Kari?
Sport: Cross-Country Skiing
Country: Finland, but moved to Salt Lake City after the 2002 Winter Paralympics
Disability: Amputee (Right Arm)
Achievements:
  • Four time Paralympian
  • 12-time Paralympic medalist (10 gold medals)
  • Nine time World Champion
  • 2010 Paralympic Hall of Fame Inductee

That's one of the reasons why her home country Finland nominated her to be inducted in the Paralympic Hall of Fame.

Kari was born without one arm, but thanks to her mother, it's never slowed her down.

"The way she raised me is like you are like any other kids, no excuses, you do what anyone else is doing, and we figured things out," Kari said.

The other reason she's being given the honor is for her work with the Therapeutic Recreation And Independent Lifestyles program, or TRAILS, an outreach program for people with spinal cord injuries.

This year, she introduced cross-country skiing to the program.

By the numbers...
2010 Vancouver Paralympics
  • 5 events
    -Alpine Skiing
    -Biathlon
    -Cross-country skiing
    -Ice sledge hockey
    -Wheelchair curling
  • 44 participating countries
  • 506 athletes

"It is classified as most hard sport in the world, to be honest with you," Kari said.

Adaptive skier Wally Lee said, "I didn't think being in a sled, pushing would be fun... But once you learn the technique, it's nice to be out here in the wilderness."

Lee lost the use of his legs in a sledding accident. Sitting and skiing is not easy. It's exhausting, but rewarding for these athletes.

"My biggest motivator was my kids," Lee said. "They all ski, and you can only see so much from the car."

"This just proves how much more there is in sports than medals and results in paper," Kari said. "You can get someone one back into life."

Kari is scheduled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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Amanda Butterfield

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