By MICHAEL KOENIGS and RANDY WILLIAMS for abcNews
Image: Randy Williams/ABC News
It has been a long ride to the top of Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado for Insha Afsar. But even on just one ski, it’s a quick trip down.
“I’m a person that likes going fast, doing everything fast. I just like speed,” said Afsar.
The 16-year-old girl from Pakistan lost her leg in 2005 when her school crumbled during a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of 80,000 people and displaced three million others in the Kashmir region.
She first traveled to the United States six months after the quake to be fitted with a prosthetic leg at Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Massachussetts, after TIME magazine photographed her and she caught the attention of one of its editors.
During a subsequent medical visit, Ted and Rebecca Bent of Washington, Connecticut, offered to house her and send her to school. As she acclimated to life on the East Coast, her newfound friends invited her to go skiing.
“The skiing took and who would have imagined,” said Ted Bent.
She is now one of the top skiers from Pakistan and hopes to represent the country in the upcoming 2018 Paralympics in South Korea. To practice, she participates in programs hosted by the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
“For my family it’s kind of shocking because they don’t understand what [skiing] is in a way,” said Afsar. “We don’t have skiing in Pakistan so it’s hard for them to process the idea.”
She also knows that relatively few women from the region participate in such sports.
“It’s not common for women to be athletes [in Pakistan]. Now I’m doing a sport that I love. That might inspire people despite everything that’s holding them back,” said Afsar.
Afsar is currently on a student visa that extends through the end of high school. She said that the highlight of her life was “being given this chance to come to the U.S.”
With changing immigration laws, she is among a shrinking number able to make the 8,000 mile journey from the Middle East to the Rocky Mountains.