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DISABILITIES ARE CHALLENGE, SPEAKER SAYS AT CONFERENCE

Overcoming physical disability is not the most difficult task facing the disabled. Their biggest challenge is overcoming the elusive things that affect everybody, disabled or not.

Diana Golden, a world class skier with only one leg, said fear, self-doubt, loneliness and complacency create more difficulty than physical disability.Golden told those attending the 7th Annual Disability Issues Conference to look at their disabilities as a new challenge and an opportunity to "awaken" new elements in their lives.

The two-day conference at the DoubleTree Hotel is sponsored by the Governor's Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities.

Speaking to the conference theme, "United in Ability: Awakenings," Golden stressed helping each other fill needs. She illustrated her point using an incident where she was dancing with a blind friend.

"I was hopping around, guiding us with my eyes," Golden said. "He held me from falling."

Finally, tired and near collapse from the physical exertion, Golden told her partner she could not continue.

"He swept me into his arms and said, `Okay Diana, tell me which way,' " Golden said. "We were united in ability."

Golden also challenged those attending against taking the easy way through life. She said too of-ten the temptation to quit or take the easy route wins.

"Being No. 1 doesn't always mean we are successful and being dead last does not always mean we have failed," Golden said. "Success is stretching our abilities to the limit."

"We are made strong not by winning easy battles but by losing hard-fought battles," she added.

She illustrated the point with a ski story. In 1988 she was asked to be the forerunner for the Aspen World Cup Women's Downhill Race in Colorado. The forerunner's job is to run the route prior to the race, giving entrants an opportunity to see the course.

Standing on a table, her crutches poised like ski poles, Golden hopped, wiggled, ducked and twisted as she described the feelings of pushing out onto the treacherous course with the eyes of thousands trained on her. She described being torn with doubt as she listened to the starter beginning the countdown.

"I was listening to that little voice we all have - the one we have a love-hate relationship with - telling me I had to do this," Golden said. "But when we listen, it brings us back to our visions.

"I felt myself struggling, falling back and struggling forward, trying to keep my balance," Golden said. "I felt like I was riding that fine edge between greatness and failure, fighting with everything I had to hold on.

"Suddenly I was at the finish and filled with a great sense of relief," Golden said. "Winning over fear and pushing back the boundaries of what is possible is the reward."

Still, Golden said, the significance of her effort was not readily apparent until six months later during a conversation with tennis great Martina Navratilova.

"She told me it was one of the greatest athletic efforts that she had ever seen," Golden said. "That gave me the reassurance that I counted.

"Then I realized, even without those words, I counted," Golden added. "We must recognize that sometimes we have to take our own initiative to tell ourselves that we do count."

Golden urged those attending to unite in ability and awaken to vision and commitment and pursue their visions with passion.