Gold medal skier? Who's he?
Kevin Bramble chats with his girlfriend at the Paralympics. / Photo by Will Bettmann
Kevin Bramble won a gold medal and he still can't get the media's attention.
Bramble won gold at the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympics more than a week ago in the fastest sit ski division, with speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. But he received very little coverage, despite the fact that he was the first American male to win gold at the Paralympics.
Bramble broke his back while snowboarding off a cliff eight years ago in the area around Lake Tahoe. After spending two years in a bodycast, he quickly returned to the daredevil sports he grew up doing. In fact, he still lives in the Tahoe area and he still jumps off cliffs, only now he rides his sit ski rather than a snowboard.
"I'm the only guy out there doing that kind of stuff," Bramble said. "It's what makes me happy. I love to ski."
Bramble's mother, Joyce, seems to have come to terms with the fact that her paraplegic son is still a daredevil.
"Of course, I get real nervous," Joyce said. "Kevin is the youngest of our three sons. We lost our oldest in a car accident, so when Kevin was hurt, we were just glad he was alive. But the skiing and other stuff he does- that's just who he is. A lot of people who get injured just sit and feel sorry for themselves. He's never done that. He's just a happy guy."
Joyce is clearly upset that the Arts and Entertainment Channel (A & E), which broadcast an hour of coverage each night of the Paralympics, failed to cover Kevin at all.
"A lot of people at home don't understand that these are great athletes," Joyce said. "They say things like 'Oh, isn't that sweet your son is in the Paralympics.' So it would have been great for them to see Kevin on TV. Still, the (A & E) coverage was a milestone because there hasn't been TV coverage like that before."
Adding insult to injury is that fact that just days before the Paralympics began, Bramble built a sit ski for one member of the A & E crew, who assured Bramble that he would be featured on the channel. Kevin also built the sit ski on which he won his gold medal. He said he taught himself to weld, how to work carbon fiber, and even a computer-based process called C & C machining. Bramble has built four sit skis thus far, and said they can be viewed on his website www.kbgoodz.com.
As was the case with the Winter Olympics, certain athletes at the Paralympic attracted a great deal of media attention regardless of their results on competition day. Both Chris Waddell and Muffy Davis, the so-called golden children of sit skiing, were featured on A & E and on the Paralympics web-page although neither won a gold medal.
Although Kevin is also upset by the lack of coverage, he refuses to dwell on disappointment or anger.
"I've been out here skiing since last Saturday, just having fun in the powder," Bramble said. "When I broke my back, I said 'I did this doing something I loved, so I'll make the best of it."