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Paralympian Nicole Roundy on overcoming life’s challenges

By Laura Canfield

To say Nicole Roundy has OVERCOME challenges is an understatement: The para-snowboarding pioneer helped propel her sport to the Paralympic stage. She is a twotime Paralympian, a 24-time World Cup medalist and a childhood cancer survivor.

Since retiring from competition, she’s found life continues presenting new challenges. “Life is a journey of transitions,” she says. “I’m proud of what I accomplished in my sport, but there are no gold medals for overcoming everyday life.”

She adds: “Athletes aren’t always competing for medals. Sometimes we’re simply competing against ourselves. If we embrace the idea that we’re only competing against ourselves, then we don’t need to compare with anyone else. It creates an opportunity to set our own expectations of who we want to be and what we’re capable of.”

In addition to her full-time career, dealing with the joys of first-time homeownership and spending time with her “tripod” rescue dog, Nicole volunteers for several nonprofits that support the limb loss and limb difference community, including Move United and Adaptive Action Sports, an organization co-founded by fellow parasnowboarder Amy Purdy.

Nicole Roundy Photo courtesy of Ossur

“Amy and I have built a friendship that’s allowed us to support each other in many aspects of our lives,” she said. “There are things about being an amputee that other people may not understand, so it’s amazing to have somebody who understands the complex intricacies of that experience.”

Changing mindsets, learning and improving

Nicole admits that not all days are extraordinary and having the right mindset is key.

“Some days, I don’t necessarily feel OK,” she said. “I’m not always in a good mood, and I might be frustrated or think, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’ve found that suppressing those emotions is comfortable for me, but it’s not beneficial. I’ve learned that, If I accept that’s where I am and create space for those emotions, it’s easier to get back to a positive mindset.”

Nicole says another form of overcoming “might be that we have to OVERCOME ourselves and our own ego. We have to learn to be open-minded to other perspectives, to try new things, think outside the box that we put ourselves into.”

Photo of Medalist Nicole courtesy of Nicole Roundy

That includes learning about her prosthesis.

“When I retired from snowboarding, my body was pretty burned out and I was struggling with arthritis on my sound leg. It’s improved significantly because I’ve learned how to rely more on my prosthetic.”

Overcoming the chase

Recently, Nicole was inspired to try skydiving for the first time. “Before we try something, we don’t actually know what it’s going to be like. When we operate from a place of manufactured fear, that keeps me from enjoying life.”

In retrospect, Nicole said, “It wasn’t scary at all! I laughed the whole way down because I felt so free. It’s not like a roller-coaster. There’s no gravitational resistance; it’s very freeing and amazing.

“I felt that freedom as a competitive snowboarder too. But I think that real freedom comes from understanding that, when we are our authentic selves, we’re living on our own terms and moving towards our future.”

“When I was younger,” Nicole said, “I was always chasing things. I chased snowboarding, then the Paralympics. I chased sponsorships and the public perception of what those sponsors said they wanted. I don’t feel the need to chase anything anymore or try to get back to what I once was. I just want to be better than I was yesterday.”