Type 1 diabetes doesn’t deter teen from pursuing Olympic dream
March 21, 2013
Nick Ward's first experience skiing was when he was only 5 years old at a small resort in Truckee — his love for speed and competitive alpine skiing began early on as he'd race his siblings down the mountain. Soon after, he dreamed of one day being a part of the U.S. Ski Team and ultimately competing on the sports highest stage in the Olympics.
At age 14, Ward was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after weeks of appetite changes, low energy and increased urination. It was hard to accept that he would live with diabetes for the rest of his life, and Ward thought about how it might affect his Olympic dream. Instead of giving up, he became more focused than ever on competitive alpine skiing.
"Within one month after being released from the hospital with my type 1 diabetes diagnosis, I was back on the mountains training and skiing," Ward, now 18, said. "Instead of letting this news sideline me from my skiing, I decided to focus my energy on one day becoming an Olympian who could show others that no matter what illness or injury you develop in life, you can manage it and still pursue your dreams."
Approximately 1.2 million people in the United States live with type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, the body's energy source. Initially, Ward would inject himself multiple times a day with insulin shots. However, once he realized how much his blood sugar levels were fluctuating in the cold while skiing, he switched to the Medtronic MiniMed insulin pump to help better control them.
Ward's insulin pump is about the size of a cell phone, and it automatically delivers insulin to his body to help keep his blood sugar levels in his desired range. Ward wears the insulin pump at all times, except for the two to three minutes leading up to and during each run of his ski races.
Today, Ward manages his diabetes with the same dedication he brings to the slopes.
"When I got my first insulin pump, I became very educated in how it can help people better control their diabetes. After getting my blood sugar in control, I performed better with my skiing and even became a ranked Far West skier," Ward said.
Ward plans to compete in several high-profile races this spring to position him as a future contender for the U.S. Ski Team, including the Western Regional Elite FIS Spring in Mammoth, which takes place from March 27 to April 1. In addition to competitive skiing, Ward works at Squaw Valley and volunteers his time and donates equipment to Sky Tavern, the same nonprofit that helped teach him how to ski.
"I want other kids to know you can conquer your dream as long as you have the right tools and support," said Ward. "Diabetes doesn't define who I am, and as an active athlete I've found a way to control my diabetes so I can focus on my racing dreams."
All Medtronic MiniMed devices are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems. For more information, visit http://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/importantsafetyinformation.