Q & A with the 2018 Paralympic Snowboarder
Brittani Coury is a member of the 2017-18 U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding Team who is vying for the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Brittani. a below-the-knee amputee, is currently fourth in Snowboard Cross LL2 in the world para snowboard rankings. She was recently interviewed by Katy Maddry, a member of the Disabled Sports USA’s E-Team. The interview took place in December 2017 at the 30th annual The Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Katy: What led to your amputation?
Brittani: My amputation was a sports related injury. Actually, snowboarding is what led to my amputation, about six years ago. So, the sport that I loved before I lost my foot is now the sport that I love with new equipment and without my foot anymore.
Katy: What’s your greatest fear on and off the hill?
Brittani: Oh! That’s a good question. My greatest fear on the hill, obviously, would be further injuring myself. My greatest fear off the hill would be not being a good mentor or role model for people to look up to.
Katy: Do you have any role models?
Brittani: My sister is my biggest role model. She’s my best friend, as well as the best person in the world. She’s helped shape me into who I am; was always there for me when I was rehabbing. My nieces and nephew were helping me, as well. So, I guess it’s a combo.
Katy: What are some changes that you noticed before and after your amputation?
Brittani: So before my amputation my ankle…we called it a “Frankle”…cause it was pretty mutilated. It was pretty bad… in really bad shape. So, snowboarding with that, on my toe-side edge if I caught any type of chatter, it would hurt extremely bad. And I did a lot of slope-style and park before with my “Frankle” and anytime I would land a jump it would hurt, but I loved snowboarding and I loved jumping so much I could deal with the pain, as long as I was able to snowboard. And now, post-amputation, what is amazing – I get goosebumps thinking about it – is I’m riding on a Versa foot, and it’s got a shock, so now I’m able to do the same exact things I was doing before, but on that toe-side edge, when I catch chatter, I’m no longer in pain. Or when I go off of a jump on a course and I land, that pain is gone. And for me, that’s just incredible. It’s the passion for snowboarding, and it’s continuing to make that flame just get bigger and bigger, because I’m able to do it without hurting.
Katy: What changes between when you free ride and what you do on a race course?
Brittani: Anytime I’m on a snowboard, I’m trying to improve my skill set. So, I’m trying to push myself free riding and making it transition into the course. I feel like in your riding you can always find somewhere to be pushing that comfort zone a little bit, and then that transitions onto the course. For me, when I’m time trialing, I race differently than when I’m in the gate head-to-head. When I’m in the gate next to somebody, it pushes me so much further and I’m able to go faster than I normally would or hit a turn faster or a feature faster, because that competitive nature in me is pulled out right before I pull out of the gate next to somebody.
Katy: Are you aggressive?
Brittani: I think so.
Katy: Would you push somebody away?
Brittani: No…I would never. I never wish ill on anybody that I’m next to. Actually, every time before I get in the gate, I pray. I pray for the person that I’m in the gate next to, and I pray for my own safety. Obviously, I pray I’m a little faster. The last thing I want to see on course is somebody hurt.
Katy: Are there any things you struggle with regarding your amputation?
Brittani: For me, since I lost my foot from a snowboarding related accident, my family had a really hard time with my decision to amputate. They struggled with it, more so than I did. They couldn’t really relate to why I would opt to lose my foot to be active. They weren’t in the same mindset that I was. Now I’m back to snowboarding and they’re like, “We’re glad you’re doing it, but we don’t want you get hurt any further.” So, that’s kind of been a mental block that I’ve been getting over, is just not focusing on getting hurt or something bad happening while I’m snowboarding. Instead just focusing on doing my job; what I came here to do. Making sure before I get on snow, I’m as strong as I can be and I’m ready and prepared for anything that comes my way.
Katy: If you could change something in your life that’s happened, what would you change?
Brittani: I don’t think that I would change anything. I’m here for a reason. I have faith that God has placed me on this path for a reason. Medals come and go. Podiums come and go. At the end of the day, if I can influence somebody’s life in a positive way or be a role model to somebody in any way, shape or form, then that for me is ultimate success.
Katy: Were you like this before your amputation, too?
Brittani: No. Before my amputation I was a rebel. I had a Mohawk. I had facial piercings. I struggled with internalizing a lot of feelings. Snowboarding, for me, was an outlet. It was a place where I could just go and be free. When I was hitting jumps, the only thing I was focusing on was snowboarding, and everything else around me and in my life was absent. For me, that was so liberating, that it’s changed me into who I am now. Like I said, I go back to faith. I have faith now, and it’s changed my whole perspective and outlook on life. I understand what it’s like to be rebellious and angry and upset, but then I also understand that hiccups and bumps in the road shape you to be who you are in the future.
Katy: What’s your goal in the next few years?
Brittani: This is a big year because we’re going into a Paralympic year, and I made the US team relatively quickly. So, my goal is to just keep progressing the way I have been. To keep improving on my riding and hopefully I’m on a podium in March. And hopefully I’m impacting other people in a positive way. Within that next year up until March, that’s my goal…to just focus and dedicate to snowboarding. I’m also a nurse, so (after the games) I plan on going back to helping patients because I can empathize with them and what they’re going through. What it’s like to go through surgeries, and be in a hospital bed, and how important getting your hair washed or brushing your teeth is when you’re in the hospital. I’ll probably go back to nursing as well as staying on the US team. Hopefully, I’m bringing up people like you to fill spots, and then we can go into the 2022 Games.
Katy: Have you ever had any accomplishments?
Brittani: Yeah…I’ve had quite a bit. So, in nursing school I was voted Class President, because I would help everybody in my class. I received the Graduate Recognition Award for the whole Pueblo Community College because I developed a tutoring program where I would help everybody in my nursing program that was struggling, to make sure that we were all at graduation. I’m currently the number one female the US in my category (Lower Limb 2 Division). I feel like I’m a pretty good aunt, which is my highest accomplishment that I’m going for. Being a good role model for my nieces and nephew. I’m a Bronze Medalist in Banked Slalom, several times, as well as a Silver Medalist in Banked Slalom, several times, at the World Cup level. So, those are my biggest accomplishments…and I’m still alive!
Katy: Do you play any other sports? Both before your amputation and now?
Brittani: I played soccer my whole life, and then I played softball as well. At 13 I played Varsity Softball in high school, but I didn’t really like organized sports and so I stopped doing that and started snowboarding. I wouldn’t say I was a jock or anything, but I dabbled here and there in a few things.
Katy: Do you have any hidden talents?
Brittani: I can Inflatable Man dance, which is pretty awesome…it’s my podium dance. I can do a pig call. *does pig call*
Katy: That was SO REAL!
Brittani: I’m pretty comical…I like to make people laugh.
Katy: It works.
Brittani is a member of the 2017-18 U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding Team who is vying for the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Brittani. a below-the-knee amputee, is currently fourth in Snowboard Cross LL2 in the world para snowboard rankings (and the top U.S. athlete in that category). This past year, she participated in a number of World Cup races, earning a Bronze medal in Banked Slalom and had several Silver medal finishes in Boardercross. In addition, she is a registered EMT and nurse supervisor.
Katy is a snowboarder that exemplifies the new trend towards action sports in adaptive athletics. Katy was selected as part of Disabled Sports USA’s E-Team in 2015 and trains regularly with Challenge Alaska, her local Disabled Sports USA chapter. Born in China, she was adopted at the age of six and became a patient at Shriners Hospital in Portland as a result of fibula tibia hemimelia, which eventually resulted in a below-the-knee amputation.