Ramped Up

When people see Oscar Loreto skate for the first time – the jumps and turns, his board flipping effortlessly beneath him – they cannot help but look at his hands. Amidst the dull thud of hard plastic wheels hitting the wooden vertical ramp, the clanging sounds of metal on metal, he clearly stands out among the others. With no fingers on his left hand and one on his right, the result of a congenital disorder, Loreto, 20 years old from Downey, Calif., gets his fair share of gawkers. But the expressions on the onlookers’ faces when he lifts his tattered pants to reveal a prosthesis on his left leg go from those of admiration to pure amazement.

“When people find out about my leg they are pretty much astonished. From people I have talked to they have told me they could not even notice. They thought I was just skating normal, and them not noticing me was kind of cool. It is a sense of accomplishment because I am just trying to be able to skate like everyone else. People with disabilities can learn that I am just a good skater,” Loreto said.

Developing his skills

O&P Extremity GamesLoreto, who is currently a junior at California State University Long Beach studying film, has practiced hard to achieve those wide-eyed looks. He began skating as a freshman in high school when his cousin introduced him to the sport. From that point on, he has worked tirelessly to get better – a task which has forced him to teach himself how to work around riding with a prosthesis. Although he began riding with a group of similarly skilled skaters, Loreto learned how to manage the same jumps and holds that his friends were doing with their tips only being occasionally helpful.

“For me it was kind of difficult to do flip tricks because of the prosthetic leg. It [learning tricks] was basically trial and error,” Loreto said. “I would see how they would flick their foot using the motion in their ankle. But since I do not have that, I would have to put the edge of my foot all the way at the edge of the board and then as I popped the board, I would have to kick my whole entire leg really hard for it to flip.”

A fine balance

Saying his method was a success would be an understatement. Since his early days of learning the basics, Loreto has gone on to compete in numerous competitions (where he has taken home two first-place finishes and one third-place), as well as landing several local sponsors. Although he is a full-time student, Loreto finds time to hone his skills when he is not in class or working on weekends. He skates everyday and is anxious for July to roll around when he will again compete in the O&P Extremity Games by College Park, held in Orlando, Fla. During last year’s games, Loreto made it to the finals but came home without a medal. Although he returned to California empty-handed, the experience made the trip well worth it.

Oscar Loreto skateboarding
Image reprinted with permission of College Park Industries.

“When they announced the skating division and they said there was going to be a mini-ramp, I was not that excited. But I was still pretty stoked. I am not really a ramp skater or anything, mostly street. I was hoping for a street course, but the ramp was still cool. It was a lot of fun just skating – I looked at it like a competition, but it was more like I was skating with my friends,” he said.

Finding peers

The laid back, local skate park feeling Loreto experienced at the Extremity Games is something he is quite familiar with. He is a member of Amped Riders, a group of athletes who represent the Adaptive Action Sports organization, a non-profit group. According to their Web site, Amped Riders “represent the ideal that, with the proper motivation and support, a person with physical disabilities can still pursue their passion for action sports.” To become a member, Loreto sent a tape to founder Garry Moore, who was impressed enough to offer him a spot on the team. The team travels to various shows across the country highlighting the skills of disabled athletes.

Meeting skaters who are in a similar situation, as well as talking with other Extremity Games athletes has given Loreto a new outlook on his own skating. The tips and helpful information exchanged has been invaluable, according to Loreto. Although it is the thrill of competition that initially drew him back to Orlando, what ultimately makes the games worthwhile is the camaraderie among the skaters.

“The Extremity Games gives people hope because they can finally be recognized, noticed and appreciated. It gives people something to look forward to every year,” Loreto said.

For more information:

  • To learn more about Amped Riders visit the Web site at www.ampedriders.org.
  • Andrew Kelly is the assistant editor of O&P Business News.

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