Athlete Blog From Rio - Presented by Samsung

Alana Nichols, 33, is a summer and winter athlete participating in her fifth Paralympic Games, this time as a sprint kayaker in Rio de Janeiro. She’s won a gold medal in wheelchair basketball and two golds in alpine skiing, and could be the first U.S. athlete — in the Olympic or Paralympic Games — to win gold in three sports. She’s sharing her experiences from Brazil, where she’ll compete in the 200-meter sprint kayak beginning Sept. 14.

Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience Every Time

Hi Team USA fans! I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences at my fifth Games. I got into Rio on the 6th, the day before Opening Ceremony, which was a great experience.

We all got on our Ralph Lauren outfits and I would have to say this year, more than any other, the outfits were so comfortable. I was really happy with that.

I thought we all looked amazing. The Opening Ceremony was nothing short of awe-inspiring, really. It never gets old. I expect it to, but it never does. I can’t believe I get to be a part of something so big and unique. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience every time.

These Games feel different to me. My experience in the past has been with the basketball team or the alpine ski team, and with that I’ve had several events and a busy schedule, a full tournament to play for the basketball team or five alpine events. It’s usually a blur. I’ve never actually been able to take part in any of the other aspects of the Games as far as spectating goes, so this time around I’ve really had a chance to take a breath.

Strangely enough I’ve had this feeling of just being exactly where I’m supposed to be since I got here. It’s been this feeling of just being present, kind of taking it all in and sort of taking in the whole experience of what is probably my last Games, instead of being caught up in my own sport.

I have a first-time Paralympian for a roommate, and one piece of advice I’ve tried to instill in her is to breathe it in. It goes by faster than you can imagine. Once the Opening Ceremony happens and the torch is lit, it seems like next thing you know we’re at Closing Ceremony. So every day is a big day. Every day counts. I just tell her every morning, “Here we go. Let’s breathe it in.” She’s actually having the time of her life. I think she’s doing great with it. She’s not overwhelmed.

Starting this sport, I didn’t know what to expect. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into. But being new to alpine skiing I also didn’t know what I was getting into and I tackled the challenges as they came in a lot of the same way I’m doing with sprint kayak.

As far as what to expect with the competition, I’m not sure. I knew there were some really strong women in my category, which is KL2, and women who have been working at this for years. I didn’t expect to come onto the scene and start winning right away, and I certainly haven’t.

But anything can happen on race day, and I’ve really chosen to focus on just my race more than ever. It’s always been a mantra of mine to not compare yourself and certainly not worry about what anybody else is doing, but more so now than ever.