An Unforgettable Journey for a Paralympic Snowboarder

Nicole Roundy racing down the course.
Nicole Roundy

While growing up in Utah, Nicole Roundy was a driven, outgoing, and ambitious individual who had huge dreams for herself while playing with her two older brothers. She learned how to compete and develop a competitive streak, which translated to her future goals down the road. But Nicole’s life took an unexpected turn as she was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that affects the femur bone and below the knee when she was just eight years old. Despite enduring rounds of chemotherapy, she was left with a life changing decision of amputating her right leg.

“My mother allowed me to make that choice,” Nicole said. “She told me ‘this is a decision that you need to make.’ So, it was hard for me because I remember sitting on my bed with tears streaming on my cheek. But I really wanted to live my life to the fullest.”
While Nicole had to comprehend the reality of losing her right leg, she also endured life’s challenges to motivate herself to do great things while dealing with the accepted reality.

“The most difficult thing for me was finding a purpose in life,” Nicole said. “Because getting through a regular day is just survival. Being competitive made me feel alive again during a difficult period in my life.” Nicole fell in love with snowboarding as a teenager when the Winter Olympics were in Salt Lake City, Utah, which inspired her to enter the world of snowboarding.

Traditional prosthetic legs provide hydrologic technology which allows slower but precise movement for areas of walking. Nicole’s prosthetic leg provides air shock that provides quick reaction to get up after falling down. “There is no blueprint into the perfect prosthetic leg because every person had their own style and need,” Nicole said.”

Her unique leg has allowed her to perform to her full capabilities, and during rough days in her life Nicole uses her passion for snowboarding as method to mentally relieve herself. “In my daily life, I can feel very trapped and restricted,” Nicole said. “But when I get out and snowboard, it’s an opportunity to challenge myself. Once I’m able to figure something out or master a new trick, it’s a huge relief for me and helps build confidence within myself.”

Nicole is an accomplished athlete in various ways, as she became the first above-knee amputee to compete in adaptive snowboarding, has won 21 World Cup medals, and represented the United States in the Paralympic winter games in Sochi, Russia in 2014. But her success does not end with her medals or Paralympic appearances. In 2012 she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and pursued a seasonal career in the outdoor industry. Although Nicole could not accomplish her goal of winning a medal in 2014, her work ethic that has defined her athletic integrity is what keeps her going as she looks to return for another opportunity to realize her dream of winning a gold medal at the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games.

“Sochi wasn’t my moment to shine,” Nicole said. “That was a hard thing to swallow, but I’ve come back from that and learned a lot from my experience. In South Korea, I want to stand on that medal stage and know that I gave my all.”

Despite falling short, the memories of USA chants in the arenas in Sochi remain with Nicole’s thoughts and understood what it meant to represent her country. “It’s the one aspect of Sochi that I will always remember because it’s an honor to represent our country,” Nicole said. “Just being a part of the opening ceremony and experience that energy in that stadium is something that can never be duplicated.”

While she trains for another opportunity for the Paralympic winter games in 2018 at PyeongChang, South Korea, Nicole lives and trains in Utah. Even as an adult, Nicole still received financial and emotional support from her friends and family. Nicole expressed that throughout the rough times in life, her parents gave her that life decision to amputate her leg and from that moment she’s respected their thoughts and opinions in any direction of her life. “I know that at any time I go home and I find comfort there,” Nicole said. “Where I find comfort and love from those who have my best interest.”

Nicole also details how her mother was a normal stay home parent before earning a job making chocolates and cleaning houses between her junior high to high school years. Her mom has saved most of her earning to Nicole for most special events, and Nicole expressed her emotional spot in the sacrifices her mom made throughout her life. “Sometimes she’ll hand me an envelope with cash in it,” Nicole said. “It’s not much but it helps and means the world to me.” Through all the help that Nicole has received from her family, the most important life lesson that she’s learned, is the value of hard work and putting in your best effort in anything you do.

As she looks forward to the next phase of her career in snowboarding and in life, Nicole wants to be remembered as a person who gave 100 percent in competitions and broke barriers to achieve great things in her life. “The one word that I want to be remembered for in my life is persistence,” Nicole said. Although Nicole hasn’t had any thoughts of retiring any time soon, she expressed that she wants to look back at her life and know that she gave everything in her mind, body and soul without regret.

August 25, 2017
By: Abel Mehari