With a Chilean ski patroller for a grandfather and a mother who was a professional ski racer, you could say Santiago Vega Castro (Santi) was born to be a skier. But, Santi’s path to the slopes was not so easy.
Santi may have skiing in his blood, but he also came into this world with agenesis. Essentially, this left him with a leg and hand that formed differently. To give him the best use of these limbs, doctors in Chile split his fused hand and amputated his right leg.
Nevertheless, Santi’s parents brought him to the ski hill at the age of two. They also brought Santi to the United States for medical treatments every few months. On one of these trips, Santi’s father heard about the National Ability Center, took the leap and signed him for a camp with our equestrian program then later, NAC ski lessons at Park City Mountain.
By the time he was 14, Santi’s talent was undeniable. So, an instructor at the NAC encouraged him to take it to the next level by joining our High Performance Alpine Team.
Just two years later, Santi raced for Chile at the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.
Santi was just 16, and one of the youngest competitors in Sochi. He recalls his first Paralympic experience as “mind-blowing and shaking,” saying he was overwhelmed to feel “the whole crowd, not knowing who I was, cheering, but just there to see me do my best.”
Today, Santi’s still got his eye on the prize and his heart set on the 2018 Paralympics in Korea. This time around, he has qualified for every Alpine event and hopes to place in the top 20 for each event.
Like so many, Santi says he has found a “family” here at the NAC. This community provides a close group of friends and coaches who support him along his journey. In fact, one of Santi’s teammates, Chris is also his closest friend. Santi and Chris train together with the NAC and cheer each other on as each pursues their dreams.
What’s next for Santi? Besides taking on big goals in Korea, Santi will be pedaling 100 miles in the 2017 Summit Challenge. A testament to his innate athleticism, Santi rode the same distance last year in 6 hours and 45 minutes, without any training. It was his first summer ever riding a road bike. Seriously impressive.
But 100 miles his first year on a road bike – with one leg – just wasn’t hard enough for Santi. This year, Santi is challenging the weather with a rain dance for August 26. He says he excels in adversity. None can argue with that. But, as for the rain, we’ll pass. Nevertheless, we ride for Santi.