Bouncing back after a twin tragedy

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Speed demon: Patrick Halgren training at Winter Park Resort, Colorado

American Patrick Halgren bounced back from losing a leg by taking up ski racing. Now he’s having to deal with losing his twin brother. He spoke to Mandy Cooper

Patrick Halgren lost his leg in a motorbike crash in 2013.

Three years later he lost his identical twin brother in a similar accident.

Eight months on from his brother Lucas ‘Sven’ Halgren’s death, near Mount Cook, the American is mapping his road to the Paralympics.

Today a special event is being held at Sven’s old – and Patrick’s current – stomping ground, The Remarkables skifield.

It’s been dubbed ‘Svend It Day’, in memory of his brother, but also to fundraise for Patrick’s Paralympics push.

Patrick, 25, says of his brother: “He was my biggest advocate, my biggest fan.”

He expects today will double as a New Zealand funeral for his twin.

Just after Christmas last year, Sven was reported missing. He was later found on Tasman Valley Road near Mount Cook, where he lived and worked for Glacier Explorers.

He’d come off his motorbike and wasn’t wearing a helmet, Patrick says. He was 24.

The happy-go-lucky twins came to live and work in Queenstown last winter.

They landed jobs fitting chains and directing carpark traffic at The Remarks.

Patrick had already tested his own fate in 2013, when the twins were 20.

He lost control of his motorbike on his way to work in Connecticut, slid into a boulder and was thrown into a power pole.

A month later he woke up without his left leg. He also suffered a crushed pelvis, punctured lungs, kidney failure, a smashed collarbone and severe concussion.

After the life-changing accident it was his brother who pushed him to get into skiing.

Sven had worked with disabled skiers, as a ski patroller with the Ability Plus program in Vermont’s Mount Snow.

Patrick: “Honestly, I didn’t even know you could ski on one leg at all.”

Their “ski bums” journey began when they worked alongside each other in Vermont – Sven as a ski patroller and Patrick as a ticketer.

Once their NZ winter season came to an end last year “we broke up the dream team”, Patrick says – he went back to Colorado to train for ski racing while Sven landed his job in Mount Cook.

And then, the accident.

Patrick: “I think my accident helped [with grief] because basically I get it – shit happens.”

He got “so many hugs” when he took up his job again at The Remarks this year.

“I’d never been hugged so much.”

Before Sven died, Patrick says together they were “outgoing, had good attitudes and tried to make rainbows out of lemons”.

Larger than life: Lucas ‘Sven’ Halgren, left, with an Argentinian friend, centre, and Patrick Halgren in Mount Snow resort

Despite everything, Patrick’s still looking on the bright side.

“Obviously I get sad all the time and I think that’s good too and obviously you should get sad – that’s a big emotion to feel – but I definitely just try to do things he would do and be happy.”

The twins spent time up mountains growing up, as their dad was a ski racer.

As they got older, snow sports took the back seat to American football.

Sven even played for Central Connecticut State University.

In 2013, before his accident, Patrick was saving money to help himself get into the National Football League.

Now, of course, he wants to make the American Paralympics team. But with limited money and only one full season of racing he’s got a long way to to go.

If he can’t make it next year he’ll be there in 2022.

“Definitely I think for 2022 I’ll be competing for a gold medal.

“I guess that is me being confident and maybe arrogant.

“But I’ve had a lot of good people tell me pretty good things and I think I’m a pretty real person – I just want to be the best racer I can be.”

One thing’s for sure – he’ll always ski with Sven in mind. “It’d be cool if I could show him that all the hard work paid off, do it for Sven, you know.”

mandy.cooper@scene.co.nz

Today’s ‘Svend It Day’ at The Remarkables raises money for Patrick Halgren’s Paralympics cause. To contribute go to www.gofundme.com/powerhouse-rad-com