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Tarpon Springs boy trains to become champion snow skier

Sean Scanlon hopes to one day represent the United States at the Olympics and World Cup.

Special to the Times

Sean Scanlon hopes to one day represent the United States at the Olympics and World Cup.

TARPON SPRINGS — Chris Scanlon gets the same response when she tells people that her son is a good skier.

"Water-skiing?" they ask.

"No," Scanlon replies. "Snow skiing."

Her 11-year-old son, Sean Thomas Scanlon, is a gifted skier. So much so that the Brooker Creek Elementary fifth-grader will spend two weeks this month in Loveland, Colo., training with some of the best young snow skiers in the country.

After that, he will spend five weeks at the Carrabassett Valley Ski Academy in Carrabassett Valley, Maine.

The academy is a prominent ski school and has trained 11 Olympians, 72 National Title skiers and six world champions. It's also the place where Sean's favorite skier, Olympic medalist and World Cup champion Bode Miller, trained.

From December to March, Sean will spend a week at a time, for a maximum of five weeks, at the academy where the main focus will be skiing.

"I like to see how fast you can go without machinery," Sean said. "And I like the way it feels when you win medals. Those are my favorite good things about skiing."

How does a boy who lives in a place that hasn't seen snow in his lifetime post some of the fastest slalom times at a Utah ski resort?

"I wanted my children to see snow, so I took them skiing," said Chris Scanlon, a 19-year host at the Home Shopping Network. "Skiing just came so easy for Sean. It was truly amazing."

Scanlon started taking Sean and his older brother, Devin, skiing at least once a year when they were 4 and 6 years old, respectively.

Devin, now 13, took to snowboarding. Sean continued to impress on the ski slopes. His stepfather, Dan Scanlon, a former ski instructor himself, ran out of things to teach the youngster.

"I'd put him on the skis and say, 'Try this,' and he'd do it in five minutes," said Scanlon, who changed his last name when he and Chris were married a year and half ago. "I was at the point of, 'Now what do you teach him?' "

Chris and the children's father, John, divorced about four years ago. But because John is battling Parkinson's disease and had trouble living alone, Chris and Dan moved him into their home five months ago.

"We went to go check on him one day and he had fallen against the door," Chris Scanlon said. "We had to break the window to get in. We decided it was best for him to live with us. I know it's a bit unusual, but he is my children's father."

Sean, who likes the giant slalom and downhill events, continued the yearly ski trips and this summer he attended a training session in Mount Hood, Ore., the only place in the United States with summer snow.

This month's trip to Colorado will require him to fly alone on an airplane for the first time.

Chris Scanlon is still working with her son's school to figure out the best way to continue his education. She is hopeful that he will be allowed to remain enrolled at Brooker Creek Elementary, though he will be missing big chunks of class time.

Doug Williams, 54, of Carrabassett Valley worked with Sean in Oregon. He was at first skeptical of a kid from Florida having the skills to ski competitively. The students that Williams usually train come from states where they can ski daily from November until about March.

"If he's not the first, he's the second because there are not many skiers out of Florida," said Williams. "I was pleasantly surprised at his ability. He's a good skier for his age. He hasn't had a lot of time on snow. Living in Florida, it's not real easy to get on snow."

But with some work, Sean Scanlon has potential.

"In his age group in the east, he will be competitive," Williams said. "He's a good little athlete. He will make huge gains the more time he spends on snow."

In Tarpon Springs, Sean plays Little League baseball, flag football and is several months into electric guitar lessons. But he loves to ski. He knows how rare it is for someone from Florida to become a competitive skier.

But Sean has his sights set on one day representing the United States at the Olympics and the World Cup. To him, that would be "awesome," he said.

Sean chuckled while recalling an exercise at Mount Hood that required the skiers to put a pin in their home state on a map.

"There was only one pin in Florida," he laughed.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Tarpon Springs boy trains to become champion snow skier 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 8:04pm]
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