July 12, 2013
Athlete Jill Kinmont Succeeded Surmounting New Challenges After Paralyzing Accident
Flipping through Netflix recently, my family and I came across ‘The Other Side of the Mountain.’ It’s the story of Jill Kinmont, an Olympic-bound Alpine skier and her courageous struggles as a paraplegic. We watched it, and even watched the sequel too. Although these movies may not fit the description of blockbusters, they certainly show the life of a hero.
Aspiring Olympian Jill Kinmont was featured on the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’ the week a crash in a race changed her life forever. In Alta, Utah, Jill was speeding down the course when she lost control and careened off the mountain. (I have to say that watching that scene in the movie was amazing! She literally skied off a cliff, just as scary as any skiing nightmare.) Laying in the snow, not feeling anything, she wondered if she was dead. Instead, her neck was broken, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. Although at first Jill thought she could work hard enough to ski again, her injury was significant enough to confine her to a wheelchair. She could only use her arms with effort, her hands were curled up into fists.
Faced with a complete change in direction, Jill square her shoulders and got to work. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she worked tirelessly to regain what mobility she could. After considerable effort, she learned to feed herself, write and paint with the use of devices clamped to her hand. Anyone who has had to rehabilitate through an injury knows that this takes concentrated effort.
Jill’s parents took care of Jill, doing for her the things she couldn’t do for herself. Jill needed help to sit up in bed and to dress. Once dressed, she needed help getting into a wheelchair. Without functioning fingers, many routine tasks were taken over by her parents. With their support, Jill decided to get a college education. She graduated from UCLA with degrees in German and English. When she set her sights on teaching, she faced a new foe: discrimination.
Los Angeles schools refused to hire disabled teachers. California colleges followed suit and refused to admit disabled students into the School of Education. Jill pressed on, moving north to Washington State where she earned her teaching certificate at the University of Washington. She taught remedial reading at a local school there until she and her mom returned to Los Angeles a few years later. The California school districts continued to refuse to hire her, even with teaching experience under her belt. Finally, she got a teaching job in Beverly Hills, a city district. Jill taught remedial reading there for several years. Later she taught disabled students in another district, and started a scholarship fund for Native Americans.
In spite of her disability, Jill enjoyed a full wonderful life. She married for love and stayed married. And she painted and participated in shows. She never let her disability be an impediment to her happiness or her life goals.
Jill explained, "My way of wanting to do all this stuff probably stems a lot from my competitive endeavors because I like to focus on something, I'm sort of determined."
When Jill faced a new and unconquerable challenge in her injury, she took the same energy and determination and applied it to her new challenges. Regaining as much mobility as she could, then becoming a teacher against the ‘system’ took real effort and stamina. She knew how to train to be an Olympian; she applied the same skills to her new future and succeeded. We can do the same with any of our challenges.
Boxall, Bettina. "Jill Kinmont Boothe Dies at 75; Ski Champ Disabled in Crash Became Role Model." Los Angeles Times 11 February 2012: No Page. Web.
Crowe, Jerry. "Jill Kinmont Boothe is Still Going Strong More Than 50 Years After Paralyzing Skiing Accident." Los Angeles Times 22 May 2011: No Page. Web.
The Other Side of the Mountain. Dir. Larry Peerce. 1975. Film.
The Other Side of the Mountain: Part 2. Dir. Larry Peerce. 1978. Film.