Words: Michelle Salt
Life isn’t always filled with Rainbows and Lollipops.
It’s usually when things seem to be in a peaceful flow that we are faced with our biggest challenges. For me, that challenge came on June 27th, 2011 when I was in a near fatal motorcycle accident. I broke a ton of major bones and became an amputee after losing my right leg. Though I had to adapt to a new life and a new way of getting around, I knew something big was in the horizon. I talked about getting back on my snowboard with hopes of making the paralympics all the time, and even though I was usually heavily medicated (and I’m sure everyone probably thought I was just talking crazy), I made it happen only 8 months after hitting that guardrail.
The process wasn’t easy. I spent the first day on hill frustrated with my sports knee, and because I was worried the hardware in my hips and pelvis wouldn’t hold, I duct taped my body with memory foam. So here I was.. no balance, XL outerwear and a sobbing mess with a big smile on my face. I can only imagine how entertaining that was for the parents standing at the bottom of the bunny hill. As i returned home that night to reflect, I realized that despite learning to have to do something all over again that I was once good at, my love for the sport was still just as strong as it was before I had lost my leg.
I often tell people I did what I knew how to do- and that was to get back on my board. But truth is, I was constantly fighting the battle. A part of me was saying “it’s risky and you don’t want to hurt yourself again” while another part was saying, “If you want to get on that podium and make your country proud, don’t give up”. I had days where the fear set in so I sat at home eating pizza and watching prison break instead of getting out on the hill. Then I also had days where I would sit in my car checking the clock every 20 seconds to see if the hill had opened yet.
One step at a time (literally), I learned how to snowboard again. Within a year I had made the National Para-snowboard team with my sights set on the 2014 Paralympic games. I would have people sit me down, look me in the eyes and tell me that doing this only 2.5 years after my accident wasn’t realistic, that I needed to focus on 2018 instead. I would listen and think to myself about how great I’d feel when I proved them wrong. I quickly learned that doubt was my biggest motivator on my road to success.
Throughout the ups and downs, I started to see a side of me that was resilient and dedicated. I allowed myself to be angry when the day didn’t go as planned and to be proud when I could get down the boardercross track without flying in the netting or taking someone out. In March, I showed those doubters who was boss when I competed in the 2014 Sochi Games, becoming the first ever female Canadian Paralympic Snowboarder. I’m cool with that, but what really makes it all so incredible is that I didn’t do it alone. I had amazing sponsors, supporters and friends who were by my side the whole time. As I waited in that start gate to compete, I knew I had people watching, which pushed me to ride as good as I could.
I always say that life is a gift. We must not take anything for granted, including high heels and the dougie (which are both a faint memory to me now). We are still on this earth for a reason, so make the most of it. If you’re going through something tough, it’s OK to cry.
Do what you can to see the positive in the situation. If you’re sitting on the couch right now not wanting to go to the gym, get your butt up and get moving! I definitely don’t want to live with any regrets. Do you?