Mary was at the first camp that Jeff organized as well and every since then, we've been good friends. Mary not only has a quick sense of humour and keeps all of us laughing, she also is genuine and sincere. What you see is what you get with Mary. I am so looking forward to sharing the experience of the Paralympic Games with her and I've talked so much about her over the past few years that my mom has threatened to disown me if she doesn't get to meet Mary up in Whistler.
Mary and I always laugh that together, we make a great team because we compliment each other. Whereas I can't read most signs because of my vision, Mary can. But because of her brain injury, Mary's memory isn't always the most reliable but one of my strengths is a good memory. So between the two of us, we've got all the bases covered and don't often get lost for very long.
Mary really is our team comedienne. She very rarely isn't smiling and has no problem letting go and having a good time. But that is not to say she isn't focused and dedicated - Mary is one of the hardest working athletes on our team and her results this past season speak for themselves.
Mary started skiing the same time I did. At that first camp at Mount Washington, Jeff asked me if I needed a guide for the fun race we entered at the end of the camp. I said that no, I didn't need a guide and started the race without one. It didn't take too long for me to realize I had made a big mistake. I couldn't see the race course markers so I had no idea which way the race course actually went, but lucky for me, Mary was just in front I yelled at her that I was going to follow her and she was happy to be my substitute guide. But both of us have a competitive streak - just a little one ;-) - so we were hammering up the hills trying to outdo each other. Now you have to remember that at this point, we'd been skiing for just three days and certainly neither of us was very fit for cross-country skiing. Mary finally said "You know, this is dumb! Let's just ski together and finish together, okay?" I was happy to agree because at the way we were going at it, I'm not sure I would have survived! So we took the pace down a bit and skied together right up until the last downhill where I fell. Poor Mary! She didn't know what to do - here she had promised me that we would ski across the finish line together and yet all the coaches and spectators were cheering her on! She did keep going, but she certainly slowed down and checked to see if I was up and skiing again. When I finished, she apologized for not waiting, but I wasn't upset - it was, after all, a race! Jeff laughed at us for what we'd agreed to, but he also told Mary that never, never, never slow down in a race, no matter what! Obviously both Mary and I knew that, but it was our first race ever on skis and really, there was nothing at stake.
I tell you this story because what I have found over and over in the sport of skiing is that there are a lot of people in the sport that will tell you one thing and do another, but Mary doesn't.. She believes in a team concept and works to be friends with everyone. And I do mean everyone! At the closing ceremony of the World Cup series in Oberried, the host organizing committee presented a slideshow of photos taken over the previous days of racing and whenever someone was recognized, there was polite applause from their teammates. But when a picture of Mary came up, the whole place erupted in cheers. She has an uncanny ability to be friends with everyone - even if they don't speak English!
Anyway, Mary, thank you for all of the great memories, including the infamous Banff banana sandwich story, utility chickens, cutting up paper towels to make toilet paper, Banagrams, sled dog klister (I can't believe Bruce scraped that off our skis with his fingernail!), ski tunnel repeats and all the fish in Finland - small fish, big fish, crispy fish, baked fish, poached fish, raw fish.....sounds like a Dr. Seuss story! Thanks too for pointing out that ausfarhts are better than insfarhts, for letting me know when you spot one of your "cousins", for sticking your head out the window to check the status of our windshield washer fluid in France, for "Screamin' Mary Hill", and for always being patient when George's skis never show up on time at the airport. And thanks for always laughing at my jokes - even if you've heard them before.....
So basically, thanks for for making this whole experience so much fun and for being there for me through good times and bad. Hopefully the end of the Paralympics won't mean the end of our friendship! I hope we will see many more squirrels running across ski trails together! As you say, we make a good team!