|Alana Nichols competes in the women's sitting giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on March 16, 2014 in Rosa Khutor, Russia.
Name any Paralympic sport, and Alana Nichols has most likely competed in it at some point in her storied career. Or at least tried it.
Nichols is a multi-sport phenomenon and made a name for herself as the first female U.S. Paralympian to win gold at both a summer and winter Games. She is a three-time Paralympic champion, having won gold as a member of the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and double gold in alpine skiing at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
“I feel so fortunate to be the first female American to accomplish this feat,” said Nichols, who also won a silver and bronze medal in Vancouver and added another silver medal four years later in Sochi. “It was only a matter of time before the amazing women of Team USA would check this off the list, and when the timing lined up for me to claim it, I felt incredibly special.”
An avid snowboarder during her youth, the New Mexico native became paralyzed from the waist down in 2000 after landing back-first on a rock while attempting a backflip on her snowboard. At the time, she was headed to college on a softball athletic scholarship.
|(L-R) Alana Nichols and Cindy Quellet of Canada reach for the ball in the women's wheelchair basketball quarterfinals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Sept. 4, 2012 in London.|
Despite her accident, her athletic talents continued to lead her forward, taking her to six Paralympic podium appearances and three ESPY nominations between her alpine skiing and wheelchair basketball careers.
Nichols, who boasts an upbeat, spunky personality, made international headlines for her achievements, even starring as a guest on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show.
After enduring several accidents on the slopes surrounding her appearance at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, though, she transitioned to becoming a competitive surfer and paddle boarder. Now, Nichols, a faster learner who just turned 33 on Monday, is training to compete in canoe, which will make its Paralympic debut at the Rio 2016 Games in September.
If she qualifies for the Rio, it will most likely be her last Paralympic Games, but she has said that could change if surfing were to ever make it onto the Paralympic program in the future.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.