BOUNTIFUL – Nicole Roundy has always chased her dreams in faraway places.
The Bountiful native and internationally recognized para-snowboarder is currently in Sochi, getting ready to compete in the Paralymics first-ever boardercross event this Friday, March 14. Fresh off her medal win at the 2014 World Cup in La Molina Spain, Roundy is approaching the opportunity fully aware of just how significant the moment is.
“Only a small handful of the athletes that competed when this all started in 2006 will be present in Russia,” Roundy wrote in a recent blog entry. “I feel as though I have a responsibility to remember and ride for those who won’t be competing in Russia.”
The experience isn’t all seriousness for the Paralympian, however.
“She’s very excited,” said Brenda Roundy, Nicole’s mother. “I don’t know if she’s nervous, but she’s very thrilled and honored to be there.”
Roundy, the first above-the-knee amputee to compete in snowboarding, first fell in love with the sport more than a decade ago. Though a bout of cancer had caused her to lose her leg at the age of eight, she’d gone up to Snowbird years later to try skiing.
She was uncomfortable with the outrigger that was supposed to replace her prosthesis for the second ski, and soon her attention was caught by an entirely different way down the mountain.
“I liked the snow, speed and adrenaline, but I felt there was something missing,” Nicole Roundy told the Clipper in a previous interview. “Then I saw the people snowboarding and wanted to try it.”
Not everyone was equally as enthused by the idea.
“I told the staff, and they looked at me like I was crazy,” she said. “‘An amputee on a snowboard? It’ll never happen.”
Though Roundy proved them wrong, there have been challenges. She has had to upgrade her prosthetic knee more than once in order to snowboard successfully, and has struggled to find sponsors that will allow her to train and attend the sport’s worldwide competitions.
“She had to work really hard to get to where she is,” said Brenda Roundy. “They don’t get funding like other Olympic athletes.”
It was also a struggle to get para-snowboarding recognized by the International Paralympic Committee, that finally announced the sports inclusion in May 2012.
The only snowboarding event in Sochi will be the boardercross, where four to six snowboarders start at the top of the mountain and then race each other down a winding, inclined course to see who gets to the finish line first. NBC will livestream the event on its website this Friday, as it’s doing for the rest of the Paralympic games.
Back in Bountiful, Brenda Roundy will do everything she can to catch the broadcast. Budgetary issues have kept her from attending most of her daughter’s competitions, though Nicole always lets her in on the experience.
“She’s been very good about letting us in on all the pictures, calling us and keeping us updated,” Brenda said.
Still, she remembers seeing Nicole snowboarding during an exhibition in Park City, and she knows that a screen of any size can’t compare.
“You can broadcast it online, but it’s nothing like being there,” said Brenda Roundy. “The camera doesn’t give you the scope of it.”
Even though she can’t be there, she knows the view in Sochi must be breathtaking. “To see them come down, and know someone up there....” she said, voice trailing off. “I don’t know a word for it other than amazing.”