BOUNTIFUL – The sweetest victory is sometimes simply making the journey.
Bountiful native Nicole Roundy, a member of the first-ever U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team, traveled to Sochi, Russia earlier this month to take part in the 2014 Paralympic Games. Though she would have liked a medal, she feels that her sport’s acknowledgement by the International Paralympic Committee was equally worth celebrating.
“I was really disappointed at how the competition went after we worked so hard to get there,” said Roundy, speaking of the U.S. snowboarding team. “But looking back, it was more about getting into the games than it was about getting a medal. I’m glad I got to be there for the debut.”
Roundy is the first-ever above-the-knee amputee to compete in snowboarding, a sport she picked up after deciding she liked the prosthesis better than the ones used for skiing. She and the rest of the team campaigned for years to see their sport recognized by the committee, but weren’t prepared for what it would be like to win the battle.
“It was all kind of overwhelming,” she said of the Paralympics. “There was so much to see, and so much going on.”
Since snowboarding isn’t usually much of a spectator sport, the crowds were also a surprise.
“Usually when we go to an event, there are a couple of handfuls of people at the finish gate and that’s it,” she said. “Just to see the fans there was unbelievable.”
The only snowboarding event at the Paralympics was boarder cross, where a group of snowboarders start at the top of a winding, inclined course and race to see who gets to the finish line first. The team snowboarded a few hours a day in preparation, dividing the rest of their time between the gym and supporting the other U.S. athletes.
“For the skiers, many of them would have one event after the other,” Roundy said. “They were always planning for something.”
She and her fellow snowboarders also visited the town, which she says pretty much sprang up in preparation for the Olympics.
“It’s really kind of amazing that they were able to build this entire city in seven years,” said Roundy. “That deserves some credit.”
Unfortunately, not all of the creation was quite so successful. Warm weather meant that the snow on some of the courses was artificial, and it proved to be a difficult surface to ski or snowboard on.
“The snow was honestly unlike any snow I’d ever ridden on,” she said. “It was more like frozen ice. You couldn’t put an edge into it.”
The conditions made completing some of the events far more challenging than they would have normally been.
“In one of the women’s skiing events, only two athletes finished the course,” she said. “It wasn’t the event we wanted, because it was more about staying upright and finishing the course than doing the best you can.”
Roundy finished eighth in the event, but isn’t letting the defeat get her down. She next hits the slopes for the national championships, set for April 7 in Copper Mountain, Colo. After that, she’s already looking ahead to the next Paralympics.
“I’m really excited about the next four years,” said Roundy. “I want to see what we can do in South Korea.”
Even that milestone, however, won’t be the last one.
“Wherever the IPC decides to take the sport, we’ll be right there,” she said. “It’s not the end of a journey, it’s just the start of a new one.”