Local Veteran is Beijing bound after Paralympic Committee overturns decision

UPDATE Feb. 25: Orlando Perez is Beijing bound after the International Paralympic Committee overturned their initial decision and will now allow him to compete at the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Winter Games.

In just two short days, the support for Perez skyrocketed as the amount of signatures nearly doubled from 1,300 signatures to over 2,500.

“Thank you all so much for your support,” Park City resident and petition creator Hillary Sapp said. “Team Puerto Rico is heading to Beijing!!!! We couldn’t have done this without you all. Thank you for showing Orlando Perez support, and being behind him through this adventure.”

The Paralympic Games are set to begin Friday, March 4, with the opening ceremonies at 4:30 a.m. MST. The first Para Alpine Skiing event will take place later that day at 7 p.m. MST. Both events can be viewed on NBC.

BEIJING — With the 2022 Paralympic Games set to begin on March 4, athletes from around the globe are preparing to make their trek to Beijing in order to have their Olympic dreams realized. However, for local U.S. Army Veteran and Paralympic alpine skier Orlando Perez, his Olympic dreams are in danger as he’s been notified he will not compete due to a clerical issue in his participation paperwork. In response, a petition has been filed on his behalf.

Originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico, Perez served in the U.S. Army where he suffered an injury in the line of duty, leaving him paralyzed without the use of his legs. Upon this life changing event, which included the stress of a career change, Perez took up wheelchair basketball as he accepted an invitation to participate in the 1999 National Wheelchair games.

“I thought it was a pity game,” Perez said. “I thought it was a bunch of hospital chairs and a bunch of people running slow. Once I saw the crashes and the motivation of everybody – that got me up.”

U.S. Army Veteran and para-alpine skier Orlando Perez.
U.S. Army Veteran and para-alpine skier Orlando Perez. Photo: Hillary Sapp.

Quickly acclimating to the sport, Perez was the Puerto Rico Wheelchair Basketball Rookie of the Year and later, was invited to be the flag bearer for Puerto Rico at the Wheelchair Basketball Americas Cup in Cali, Colombia in 2017.

After retiring from basketball, Perez took up para-alpine skiing and he quickly impressed the International Olympic Committee to compete in the 2022 Paralympic games — embracing his motto, “bring on the challenges, because I love to overcome them.”

However, as previously mentioned, a clerical error in his paperwork has threatened his Olympic dreams as he has been notified he will not be able to compete. In response, a petition has been created on by Park City resident Hillary Sapp on his behalf to submit to the International Olympic Committee, urging them to allow him to compete next week.

“Please join us in signing this petition to the International Paralympic Committee in stating: LET ORLANDO COMPETE! Then share this petition with your family, friends, and social media accounts – we need as many signatures as we can get and time is of the essence! The opening ceremony for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games is this Friday, March 4th,” the petition states.

The petition currently has over 1,300 signatures on the way to their goal of 1,500. If you’d like to support this Veteran Paralympian, a link to the petition can be found here.

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