Summit County snowboarder has eyes set on 2022 Paralympic Games
At just a week old, Colby Fields had a stroke that left him with left-sided hemiplegia cerebral palsy. Now the 16-year-old from Breckenridge is trying to make a reality what was once a moonshot dream of competing at the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Games.
The entire left side of Fields’ body was affected by the stroke — from his hand to his foot. Fields walks a little unevenly, but the cerebral palsy primarily affects the fine motor skills in his left hand, causing him to lack strength.
But that didn’t stop Fields. At a very early age, a physical therapist visited his house to help him perform exercises and drills to mitigate some of the challenges he was having.
“The therapists would come to my house a couple times a week, and I would do the therapy in my room while all the other kids in the neighborhood played outside,” Fields said. “I wasn’t really treated differently because no one really knew because I was in my room completing the physical therapy.”
Fields did physical therapy from when he first had the stroke at a week old until he was about 6 years old. It was during that time when he first got interested in snowsports.
Fields originally started off skiing at age 3, but after having difficulty holding the poles, his physical therapist suggested he switch to snowboarding.
“I wouldn’t have had even pole strides if I was going to continue skiing, so my therapist recommended the switch to snowboarding because it eliminates the poles,” Fields said.
Fields picked up snowboarding at age 4 and said the transition was difficult at first. Fields went through a couple of years where all he could manage was sliding down the mountain on his heel side.
“I have always loved snowboarding since day 1, but there were times when I would get tired of hitting my head from falling and go home in frustration,” Fields said. “But my parents always just encouraged me to continue on and power through the difficulties I was facing.”
Fields’ parents soon received a scholarship with the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, which helped shape Fields into the Paralympic hopeful he is today.
“Snowboarding makes me forget everything when I am out there riding.” Fields said. “I feel free.”
Fields garnered some accolades during the 2020-21 competition season, when he won the Rocky Mountain Freeride Series big mountain championship in Colorado. His performance, among other snowboarding competitions the past five years, has put Fields in a position to vie for a spot on the 2022 U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team in the banked slalom and snowboardcross events.
Fields has not yet met the standards to qualify for the team, but he is traveling with Team USA to Norway and Finland to be classified as a para-athlete and to participate in competitions that could allow him to qualify for the Paralympics.
The Paralympics require all new para-athletes to go through a classification process that involves meeting disability requirements as well as a one-on-one athlete evaluations.
Due to the expense of traveling to Norway and Finland, a GoFundMe page has been set up in Fields’ name. He has to pay his own way to the competitions and para-athlete classification to have a chance at being named to Team USA, at which point athletes receive some financial assistance to go to Beijing.
The fundraiser has already collected more than $7,000 in donations, but Fields said the goal is $11,000 to account for his expenses if he gets to travel to Beijing in March.
“It would be fantastic to be named to the U.S. Paralympic Team, although it isn’t my end goal, as I am doing this to inspire the younger kids,” Fields said. “Some kids may have things going on behind the scenes like I once did, and I want to inspire them (not) to … let that stop them.”
After his planned trips to Norway and Finland in late November and early December, Fields will have a chance to compete in a Paralympic qualifier in his own backyard: Winter Dew Tour at Copper Mountain Resort from Dec. 16-19, when he is scheduled to compete in the men’s adaptive banked slalom.