2014 Sochi Paralympics Spotlight: Nicole Roundy
February 28, 2014
When Nicole Roundy became an above-the-knee amputee at the age of 8 after a fight with Osteogenic Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, her life became a quest to fit in.
After all, what’s more important to a child than fitting in among her peers?
Little did she know she’d eventually end up standing out. Later this month, Roundy will compete in the 2014 Paralympics as a member of the first-ever U.S. Paralympic boardercross team.
But fitting in during her years in school proved to be more difficult than the young Roundy imagined. Roundy, who, in addition to being a cancer survivor and losing most of her right leg, also has some hearing loss because of the chemotherapy treatments she underwent, said the reality of her situation didn’t hit her until junior high and high school.
"As a teenager, you just want to fit in and do all the things your friends are doing," she said. "You want to be the star basketball player you just want to be a part of everything."
That led to her trying to make her way onto a school sports team.
"I really wanted to play sports, to be a part of a team," she said. "I tried out for the basketball team, the volleyball team those kinds of things. I was never fast enough I was always the slowest player.
"And I’m not the greatest basketball player in the world, I will admit," Roundy added with a laugh.
Growing up in the Salt Lake City area, Roundy eventually found her way to winter sports. But, she said, she didn’t like it at first.
"I tried free-track skiing when I was 16 and wasn’t a fan of it," she said. "It’s basically you’re on one leg with a ski and then you have two outriggers in your hand. I didn’t like that because it required me, one, to take off my prosthetic and leave it at the lodge and, two, I couldn’t pick myself up off the snow. I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own I required the assistance of other people."
But snowboarding looked like something she’d enjoy doing, so she decided to give that a try. Unfortunately, she was met with more resistance on that front.
"People just didn’t see an above-the-knee amputee being able to do that," she said. "People told me, ‘Even if you tried to snowboard, you wouldn’t be any good at it.’ That’s what people told me 10 years ago."
But, being a stubborn 18-year-old who was tired of hearing ‘no,’ Roundy gave it a shot anyway, if only to prove her doubters wrong.
"Oh, 100 percent," she said when asked if doubters helped motivate her. "What’s more encouraging than having someone tell you you can’t?"
Now, as a part of the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team, the 28-year-old Roundy said the reality of her situation hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
"I’m just honored," she said. "Here I was, I wasn’t supposed to be able to snowboard in the first place and now I’m going to Sochi. I’m one of the best riders in the world that’s amazing to me."
Being an above-the-knee amputee puts her at a disadvantage with some of her below-the-knee amputation competitors, but Roundy hopes to use her experience and technique to offset those advantages.
"If I mess up in a technical way, that’s going to put me a lot farther back than someone else I can’t make up that time, I can’t make up that speed," she said. "But I’ve been doing this a little while and I know what works for me and what can keep me focused 100 percent and I do that every single day. I feel prepared."
Though she hasn’t ridden the Sochi course yet, she knows what the designers will be shooting for while crafting it.
"We’ve seen the layout they have planned for the course and that’s helped us," she said. "The course in Sochi will be long and kind of open. It’s all about lines and technique and ability hopefully that will work out well for me."
In the end, Roundy’s goals for Sochi go back to 10 years ago, when she was starting a sport that no one ever thought she’d be good at.
"I want to be able to represent the United States, win a medal and prove, mostly to myself actually, that I wasn’t crazy getting into this," she said.