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One Gate at a Time

[click to enlarge]


She came careening
the gate and
sent it soaring, knocking it
nearly off the
side of the
slice of
mountain reserved for
the slalom



But Tina is familiar with disappointment - both small and large. She once wrote to her donor but never received a response.

Story by Randy H. Milgrom
Photography by Bob Garypie and Peter Ottlakan

Triumph Trumps Troubles

On Monday morning, Tina Corbett of Team USA was heading into the second-from-last turn in the Giant Slalom competition with a sizable lead. She was flying.

“I just said, ‘Come on! Back it down a little for these last two and you’ve got it, easily,’” laughs her husband, Tim, who has accompanied Tina to Nendaz from their home in Durango, Colorado, where they both regularly ski at even higher altitudes.

But it was not to be. She came careening toward that second-to-last gate and sent it soaring, knocking it nearly off the side of the slice of mountain reserved for the Giant Slalom course run. Disqualified.

So this morning would be different. Though she says she definitely approached the run more conservatively, Tina also admits it was a “really, really hard course.” But this is obviously an overly modest assessment, since her graceful, criss-crossing path down the slope was rapid enough to earn her a silver medal.

Bouncing Back

Her performance was not surprising, though, since bouncing back is nothing new for Tina. She was “very fit, very healthy” until 1986, when suddenly at the age of 26 she became very sick with lupus disease. The next ten years were “pure hell,” she says, with constantly aching muscles and other pains, as well as various problems affecting her kidneys. In 1992, she had to be flown to Denver, with bleeding in her lungs. Following complete kidney failure, she waited, on dialysis, for more than three-and-a-half years – until finally, about five years ago, she received her new kidney. Tina describes this horrendous period of waiting as “pretty much just an existence.”

Tina had to take a break from skiing when she first got sick – and she has since had both her hips replaced due to the doses of prednisone she used to combat her illness. But she had been skiing since she was 14 – including a fair amount of racing – so following her transplant she returned to her beloved sport with a vengeance. She was disappointed when she realized she found out about the Transplant Games too late to attend the Winter Games in Utah in 1999 – especially since Snowbird is so close to her home.

But Tina is unfortunately also familiar with disappointment – both small and large. She once wrote to her donor’s family through the local donation coordination center in Colorado but never received a response. Though she and Tim have learned her donor was a woman from Michigan about Tina’s age, they would like to know more than that.

What’s Next?

With both her Giant Slalom troubles and her Slalom triumphs well behind her, Tina wasn’t thinking about anything other than the Parallel Slalom event to come. Though there was some vague discussion floating around her about the next winter Transplant Games, the only trip she seemed capable of thinking about was the bus ride up to the tram stop in Nendaz – and whether it would deliver her there on time for the start of her next race. Later – with her most immediate source of anxiety quelled – Tina mentioned this: just before she left for Switzerland, she was told her kidney “may be in chronic rejection.”

“I’ve got a lot of doctors to visit when I get home” she sighed.

But Tina has overcome a lot of difficulties before, so she’ll do it again. At this moment, the only thing she wants to think about is flying down this mountain just as quickly as she can.

And that’s enough to think about for now.