Former Patient to Compete in Paralympics This Month
ATLANTA (March 1, 2010) — A competitive spirit, lots of training, an adrenaline rush and a feeling of freedom from his wheelchair have propelled Jasmin Bambur to the ski slopes of Vancouver, Canada, where he will compete in his first Paralympic Winter Games beginning March 12.
Specializing in speed, he will compete in five skiing events – slalom, giant slalom, super G, super combined and downhill – for the Paralympic team from Serbia, Jasmin’s native country. He is the first Serbian to compete in the Paralympics.
Jasmin will be going to Vancouver on March 6 for six days of adjustment training before the Paralympics begin. His first event will be downhill skiing.
“Everything is possible,” Jasmin said. “I’m going for a medal at the Paralympics.” But he noted that the competition is stiff from more than 200 Paralympic skiers from around the world. His previous wins include third place in the super G in the Europa Cup Finals in 2008 and second place in that event in 2008 in the U.S. Nationals.
Once the Paralympics get under way, results will be posted at www.vancouver2010.com/paralympic-games
Always an athlete, Jasmin played soccer, basketball and tennis and then found his passion in team handball, which is popular in Europe. In winter 2000, while a student at Middle Georgia College in Cochran, Ga., Jasmin played for the U.S. handball team. One night after a long day of training, he was driving home and fell asleep at the wheel just a minute from his house. He crashed his car and sustained a T-9 to -10 complete spinal cord injury, which made him a paraplegic.
During his rehabilitation at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Jasmin struggled with depression, he said. But therapeutic recreation therapist Joy Burns (who is no longer at Shepherd) encouraged Jasmin to find a new outlet for his athletic interest.
“Joy came to my room and brought an album with pictures,” he recalled. “She made me look at it – the pictures of her and another guy in a wheelchair doing all kinds of activities all over the world. I said, ‘Whatever. See you later.’
“Then, later on, the guy in the photos (Bert Burns, Joy’s husband) came to my room to shake my hand,” Jasmin added. “He was a quadriplegic and a Paralympic gold medalist, and I thought, ‘If he can do it, I can do it 10 times better.’ From that day forward, I was doing all kinds of stuff. Life goes on, and I’m doing what I was doing before the injury – just a little differently.”
Joy, who now runs a urological supply company, UroMed Inc. in Suwanee, Ga., with her husband Bert, said: “The first time I met Jasmin, I knew he would be a hard patient to reach about the significant of wheelchair sports could have in his life. His athleticism was obvious and could make him good in sports, but his accomplishments in organized sports made him skeptical about how competitive and real disabled sports are. Having a peer like Bert, who had achieved much in disabled sports, talk with Jasmin provided motivation to him of what his future could be.”
Once Jasmin decided he could return to sports, he played wheelchair tennis and basketball, and also participated in water skiing with Shepherd groups. Then, nine months after his injury, Jasmin traveled to Breckenridge, Colo., to snow ski with a Shepherd group.
“I had a blast and knew this was the sport for me,” Jasmin said. “Ever since I got in a wheelchair, I’ve been trying to get out of it. When I’m skiing, I feel completely free.”
Jasmin has been actively ski racing for three years now. In 2008, he qualified for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games to compete for Serbia. As a resident alien in the United States and the husband of an American woman, he stayed in the country to train for the Paralympics at the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colo.
Along the way, Jasmin sustained some injuries while training. In 2008, he was able to race for only one month after he crashed at 65 miles an hour, breaking his collarbone on the left side.
“Welcome to the life of ski racing,” he said. “I’m a big risk taker. The thrill is worth it. The adrenaline level is unbelievable. You don’t really realize you’re going 65-plus miles an hour. I don’t want to think about it.”
Jasmin’s road to the Vancouver games was also slowed in 2008 by an infection in his leg; it required numerous surgeries. Still, he persisted, returned to training and raced again last year.
After the Vancouver games, Jasmin plans to continue competing through 2014 so he can go to the Paralympics in Russia, where, for the first time, Paralympic skiers will use the same venue as able-bodied racers. “Mono-skiing is getting more advanced, and the technology, as well as the racers, are getting better,” Jasmin explained.
Having found his new passion in ski racing, Jasmin encourages other people with disabilities to find a sport or other activity they enjoy. He said he often tells people there are about 100,000 things an able-bodied person can do and about 99,000 things he can do as a person who uses a wheelchair. “But all of us can only do about 20 things per day because that’s all that time allows,” he added.
For more information on Jasmin, see www.teambambur.com.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.