“My goal is to qualify for the games and go to the games”

She was born in Russia with a condition called arthogryposis that affected her legs. She was adopted at the age of 2 and moved to the U.S., where her condition made normal life not so normal.

“It was really interesting growing up for me, because I was always trying new things, always trying to kind of fit in, but I soon learned that I have to adapt to the world around me,” Doederlein said.

As time went on, independence and better mobility were all Doederlein wanted, so it was time to make a life-altering decision. At 14 years old, she decided to amputate both her legs from the knee down.

“It was actually pretty scary, not only for myself but for my family and friends and everyone I knew. It was definitely the biggest decision I ever made, mostly because it changes your life forever, you can’t really go back on it,” Doederlein said.

Her mother and father, Fami and David Doederlein, were in shock at the bravery their daughter showed post-surgery.

“She said, ‘I want to see my legs,’ and so the nurse pulled back the covers, she looked at them and said, “That’s about what I thought, what I expected,’” Doederlein’s father said. “Just an amazing testimony to her resilience, she wasn’t shocked by what she saw, and she was absolutely determined to get mobile as quickly as possible.”

The decision turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to her.

“Having the surgery was the first step to opening the door to everything that I’ve ever wanted to do, which was sports and having independence in my entire life,” Doederlein said.

After a long rehab process, it was finally time for her to start walking again, and within in the first week of being on her feet, sports took over.

“I was invited out to try sled hockey, and of course I never knew what that was, but I was like, ‘This is a sport, I may as well try it.’ So I went out to practice with the team in Arizona one day, and I fell in love with it,” Doederlein said.

As she began her sled hockey journey, she was by far the youngest athlete on the team.

Lera Doederlein

“Pretty much from the start, I was pushed to do my best and play at my hardest 100% all the time, so I really saw that potential in myself, I guess, and that fire kind of grew in me,” Doederlein said.

The love of sled hockey led her to the Women’s National Development Sled Hockey Team, which is pushing to get women’s sled hockey in the Winter Paralympics. While it might not be in the Paralympics just yet, another sport is – Nordic skiing.

“It’s a very similar sport to sled hockey, so I believe that’s part of the reason why I love it so much. There’s just something about it, getting on the snow and skiing and skiing on your own but also skiing with a ton of other people,” Doederlein said.

Although she may be new to the sport, her goal is simple.

“My goal is to qualify for the games and go to the games. I definitely see that for myself in the next year,” Doederlein said.

“We’re super proud of her, yes, but it would be an absolute thrill for us to see her make the Paralympics, because that would be a testimony to her effort and the amount of dedication that she takes, and it would just make her parents so proud,” Doederlein’s father said.

Lera Doederlein’s road to becoming a Paralympic hopeful has not been easy

Doederlein has some great company helping her achieve her dreams. Oksana Masters, a multi-Paralympic champion, also a double amputee adopted from another country, will look to hopefully be skiing by her side in Beijing.

“For me to make the Paralympics next year and go to the Paralympics with her and possibly even place would be a dream come true,” Doederlein said.

At such a young age, even if we don’t see Doederlein in Beijing, she could still make the Paralympic stage numerous times in the future.

Source: nbcmontana.com