Megan Harmon celebrates 'Undead Day' at first Paralympic Winter Games
Megan Harmon competes at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup in Copper Mountain, Colo.
Traveling around the world and living in the Paralympic Village can leave the most organized athlete asking what day of the week it is, let alone what the date is. The U.S. team even has whiteboards scattered through the halls of their living quarters to remind athletes and staff what day it is.
But for snowboarder Megan Harmon, there is one date that is always on her mind.
On March 12, 2009, Harmon was a typical college student when a serious motorcycle accident resulted in the amputation of her left leg just above the knee. Within two weeks, she was walking with a prosthetic and returned to snowboarding six months later.
March 12, 2014, marks the five-year anniversary of the accident, a day Harmon now calls her "undead day." The quiet and friendly Harmon got a huge smile on her face when she realized the date.
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s the 12th; that’s so cool,” she said. “My friends and I dubbed it my ‘undead day'. I knew I didn’t want it to be a day each year that bummed me out or turned out to be a terrible thing. I turned it into a party day. When I was in college, we would have parties for special events like birthdays, and my day turned into a huge party. I even got to the point of looking forward to it.”
When Harmon moved from her home in Alabama to Utah to pursue snowboarding competitively, she wasn’t sure how to keep up the tradition. She found that another athlete shared a similar anniversary date, and together they threw a joint party last year. This year, however, the celebration has certainly reached new heights. Named a member of the first U.S. Paralympic snowboarding team, being in Sochi will be an anniversary to remember.
When Harmon recalls her journey to these Games, it is one she has pursued with passion, dedication and support.
“I was lucky. My parents always had high expectations for me. They were so supportive and always told me after my accident that I would get back to the things I loved like backpacking and snowboarding. It was me that needed to realize it. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it,” recalls Harmon.
Often Harmon hears people wonder how there can be an Alabamian on the snowboard team. It was never just a matter of geography, though.
“The drive that I had toward making this a reality, it took a lot of dedication,” she said.
Once Harmon chose to pursue the sport at a competitive level, she was so anxious to move to Utah to train that she took 19 course credits in one semester so she could graduate and pursue her dream. Today, that dedication also finds Harmon balancing training with her work as a quality control engineer for ATK.
It takes some natural ability to be successful in a relatively short amount of time, Harmon acknowledged.
“It does take a level of natural athleticism to jump into something really quickly but a lot of it also was about being brave, especially my first season. Pushing myself to do things that I thought were terrifying, I just made myself go for it. Usually I would fall the first time, and I would land it the second time; that’s how I learned so quickly.”
Harmon also has high expectations for the sport of snowboarding.
“I love how much our sport has grown,” she said, referring to the nearly tripled enrollment in the sport since the Paralympic announcement in May 2012. “I want everyone to watch; the course is going to be super-fast and technical. There will likely be some epic moments. This is such an incredible way to get more people involved in our sport as fans and athletes.”
The first-ever Paralympic snowboard cross competition is March 14.