Paralympic bobsledding hopeful turns to WNC to fulfill next dream

Motivation to move on from a harrowing and life-changing snowboarding accident in 2013 didn’t happen overnight for first-year Western Nevada College student Steven Jacobo.
But it did happen.
In fact, following a year of recovery from T-9 and T-10 vertebrae fractures to his spinal cord that left him a paraplegic, Jacobo found inspiration from others who are paralyzed and how they proceeded with their lives.
“The transition, I’m not going to lie, it was pretty sad for about a year straight because my surgeon told me I would be walking out of the hospital and that clearly didn’t happen,” Jacobo said.
Recalling that life-altering day at Sierra at Tahoe in 2013, Jacobo becomes emotional, but it obviously is a story that he has been asked to recount many times.
“I went off a 15-foot jump that I really wasn’t ready for and it shot me upside down and I fell about 25 feet on my back on a really steep incline, and there was hardly any snow because it was toward the end of the season,” he recalled.
Confined to a bed for the first week following his accident, Jacobo felt his legs becoming weaker and a fear of never being able to walk again. But his outlook changed when he started rehabbing at Ranchos Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.
“I saw hopes of walking, but I also had multiple doctors tell me that I would never walk again,” he remembered.
After a year marked by depression and not knowing what direction to turn in his life, watching YouTube videos of other paraplegics doing basic day-to-day tasks inspired him to move on to a life powered by a wheelchair.

Steven Jacobo


“I started my own YouTube channel on how I do things as a paraplegic, and that kind of helped me out a lot,” he said.
Seeing how Grant Korgan of the Alpine Assassins rebounded from a snowmobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down also inspired Jacobo in his recovery and return to winter sports.
“I read his book when I was in the hospital and what he went through with winter sports and the High Five Foundation,” Jacobo said. “All of that motivated me to get back into sports, to make goals and improve upon things.”
Prior to his accident, Jacobo said he was a young man enjoying the perks of living at Lake Tahoe.
“I was pretty young, working as a chef. I think this helped me out with goals, to tell you the truth. I didn’t have any goals to go to college back then,” he said.
However, it was during that first year of his recovery that a Facebook message changed the direction of his life. He was contacted by a para bobsledding pioneer who encouraged Jacobo to try the sport.
“Before my accident I never knew about bobsledding or knew much about it,” Jacobo recalled. “He wanted me to go to bobsled school in Calgary, Canada, and when he contacted me it was the first year of me being injured so I wasn’t really ready physically, so I told him to contact me a year later.”
In 2014, Jacobo spent five weeks in Calgary learning how to bobsled. He was a quick learner. That same year he competed in the first World Cup para bobsledding events in Austria and Switzerland.
Bobsledding is a gravity-powered sport that relies on the importance of recognizing the literal victory line. “You want to find the fastest line, so any little bump or hit on the wall, you’re going to lose speed,” said Jacobo, now a USA Para-Bobsled team athlete.
Jacobo, a self-described adrenaline junky who thrives in extreme sports, quickly became enamored with bobsledding.
“The tracks normally run about a mile long; by the time you get to the bottom of a track it could be about 50 seconds to a minute on average and you can reach a speed of about 90 mph,” he said.
He is scheduled to take part in eight World Cup events this season, competing as far away as Switzerland and Austria. Earlier this season, he finished a career-best second to earn a medal in a World Cup held in Lake Placid, N.Y. But he has loftier goals in the sport.
“Being able to compete in the first World Cups to the first World Championships and the first Paralympics would just be awesome … one of my big goals for sure,” Jacobo said.
The Paralympics, however, will have to wait since bobsledding isn’t sanctioned for the Games yet.
“Being able to compete in bobsledding is great for someone like Steven,” said Susan Trist, director of Disability Support Services at WNC. “I don't think he will ever want to give up competition or winter sports, so being able to compete in adaptive sports is fulfilling for him.”
Even though Jacobo is motivated to reach the pinnacle of his sport, there are other parts of his life that are consuming more of his time and passion.
Going to college was never on his radar as a teenager and young adult, but now Jacobo is enjoying his first semester at WNC.
“What brought me here was that I am really into engineering and with this space race going on, I thought it would be really interesting to get into aerospace engineering,” Jacobo said. “I always liked to take things apart and put them back together and improve on things.”
Because of his World Cup schedule and training, Jacobo has been able to take all of his classes online.
Jacobo is looking beyond WNC, too. He plans to transfer to the University of Nevada, Reno, after earning his associate degree to complete his engineering degree.


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