Harvard College Student Takes to the Skis at Paralympics

Sarubbi To Train for 2014 Paralympic Games in Russia

Courtesy Caitlin Sarubbi

At the end of March 2008, Caitlin H. Sarubbi ’13 had her “best week ever.”

On Wednesday, Sarubbi received a letter of admission to the Harvard College Class of 2012, and on Friday, she found out she had secured a nomination for the U.S. Paralympic Games ski team.

Born with Ablepharon macrostomia syndrome (AMS), an extremely rare genetic disorder whose name literally means “born without eyelids and enlarged mouth,” Sarubbi is legally blind and has partially impaired hearing.

A high school senior at the time, Sarubbi was taking Advanced Placement classes and preparing for college, but she was simultaneously training for the Paralympics.

“A lot of my teachers were like ‘Oh, she’s going on a ski vacation, taking two months off,’” she says.

After struggling with balancing academics and athletics in high school, Sarubbi sought a different solution for her college experience, although she was still determined to do both—just not simultaneously.

“2010 is coming up,” she explained to Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67. “I want to do one semester and take three off to train full time.”

That fall, Sarubbi matriculated to Harvard as a member of the Class of 2012. By the time her classmates were entering their second semester, however, Sarubbi was beginning her road to the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver.

GOING WITH THE FLOW

Because AMS is so rare, little information exists as to what causes the syndrome.

“I’m one of about 13 people who have it,” Sarubbi says. “There’s not enough people with it to warrant tons of money to research it.”

So far, Sarubbi has undergone 60 surgeries, the first of which happened when she was only three days old. The doctors made eyelids for her in an attempt to prevent further sight loss.

But despite the number of surgeries and the obstacles that she faces, Sarubbi remains positive.

“Health-wise, I’m fine. You just kind of go with it,” she says.

One of Sarubbi’s friends, Jacqueline L. Nesi ’12, says Sarubbi’s positive attitude impresses her.

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