At just eight years old, Nicole Roundy was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. “I went through aggressive chemotherapy and elected to amputate my right leg above the knee,” she said. Despite limb loss, she has worked her way to be consistently ranked as one of the best adaptive snowboarders in the world.
A native of Utah, her journey began in 2002 when as a visitor, she attended the Winter Paralympic Games in Salt Lake City. As she watched other athletes with disabilities compete, she saw snow sports as the way to achieve independence. She started with three-track skiing, but struggled to pick herself up from the snow. “I have a lot of respect for skiers because I found it very difficult,” she said. Two years later, she tried snowboarding through the National Ability Center, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA. Those early years for her were also the early years for adaptive snowboarding. Her equipment consisted of a board that was rigged to a prosthetic boot. Plus, her prosthesis limited her to what she could do on the slopes. It didn’t matter; she just wanted to be on the snow.
Finally, advances in prosthetic knees allowed her to pursue the sport beyond recreationally. In 2006, she became the first above-knee amputee, male or female, to compete in adaptive snowboarding. Her success led to further demands in the prosthetic knee industry and she played a large role in introducing the sport of snowboarding to the Paralympics.
Back in 2006, there were also only four or five women actively involved in the sport. That number has grown as adaptive snowboarding lessons and competitions are promoted within many DSUSA chapters.
As one of the longest standing participants, Roundy, now 31, believes that half of winning is just showing up. She has done just that. She represented the United States in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi and has won more than 20 World Cup medals. Recently, she won the bronze medal in Snowboard Cross at the 2017 World Championship held at Big White Resort in Canada. She is hoping to do better at the 2018 Paralympic Games in South Korea.
She is in the midst of her training, working on everything from the tactical, the mental, and the physical. Her preparation includes lifting weights and getting the muscles to move faster and react quicker as well as stretching to ensure the muscles do not become tight or restrictive. She admits she needs to improve her flexibility the most, so yoga has also become a part of her routine doing what she calls “yoga for the non-flexible.” Roundy is also working on her endurance. “If you think about it, we are on the snow for only two minutes,” she said. And although she is not a fan of cardio, anytime she is on the machine she thinks of the gold medal to get her through it.
Regardless of what happens in South Korea, this world-class snowboarder and childhood cancer survivor will be excited to be there as an athlete. The sport is as enjoyable for Roundy now as it was during her teenage years when she yearned for that sense of freedom. “Standing on top of the mountain and looking down at the fresh powder and knowing I can do whatever I want going down is a powerful feeling,” she said. “I feel enabled.” That being said, Nicole has never really thought of herself as being disabled. “It is a part of my life, a part of who I am.”