Alana Nichols is no stranger to making a difference.
While she is no longer pursuing Paralympic medals, she is, however, helping to ensure those following in her footsteps see ample opportunities to reach their dreams as she serves on the Athletes’ Commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Los Angeles 2028.
“I think having the Games in L.A. is so important for the Paralympic Movement, which is absolutely one of my biggest passions,” she said. “I really wanted to make time for that.”
Nichols now finds herself alongside eight other Paralympians and nine Olympians on the commission. The L.A. 2028 website states the group “will bring essential insights and perspectives to create an inclusive, innovative and seamless experience” for the athletes competing in the Games in seven years.
The commission was only recently announced, and Nichols said they all expect to have increasing responsibilities as L.A. 2028 approaches. The committee will be involved in a wide range of discussions, even how to use the “A” in its logo.
“They wanted to pick my brain on several different ideas,” she said. “The ‘A’ is going to represent different things, cultures and abilities.”
Nichols is a five-time Paralympian and six-time Paralympic medalist across two different sports. Nichols won a gold medal in wheelchair basketball in 2008 and has gone on to win medals in Para Alpine skiing while also competing in canoe and kayak. Nichols is the first U.S. female Paralympian to medal in summer and winter Games.
While Nichols helps L.A, 2028, she continues playing a pivotal role in growing adaptive surfing. She is a member of the International Surfing Association’s Para Surfing Athletes Commission. Nichols competed for the U.S. at the first-ever ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship in 2015 in San Diego. She uses a “wave ski,” in which she is essentially strapped sitting in a kayak.
A total of 69 adaptive surfers from 18 different countries competed at the world championships in 2015. Three years later, that same event had 120 athletes from 24 nations taking part.
The multi-talented Nichols wants to see more women like her tagging along.
“I’m really looking forward to more women getting involved,” she said. “I’m hoping that we’re going to grow my category, as well as the women’s division as a whole.”
If being on two athletes’ commissions isn’t enough, Nichols is the mom of her 2-year-old son, Gunner, and working on a related documentary.
“I definitely have a wild schedule with a toddler now,” she said. “I get very little free time to myself. For the free time I do have, I like to prioritize things that are important to me.”
The L.A. 2028 Athletes’ Commission was something she did not want to miss.
“Representation is so important,” she said. “Nothing should be about us without us. I have kind of earned my stripes as a person with a disability, and as a Paralympian. I feel like, because I have that background of experience, I’m in a good position to add color and texture to how things are going to run in LA.
“It’s important to have eyes like mine on things as they’re beginning to develop.”
Nichols is joined on the commission by fellow Paralympians Scout Bassett, Samantha Bosco, Allison Compton, Lex Gillette, Ileana Rodriguez, Rico Roman, Oscar “Oz” Sanchez and Ahkeel Whitehead. Olympian Janet Evans will chair the commission, and fellow Olympians Allyson Felix, Queen Harrison, Nastia Liukin, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Apolo Ohno, Adam Rippon, Alex Shibutani, Howard Shu and Brenda Villa make up the rest of the roster.
“The L.A. ’28 Athletes’ Commission represents the many cultures and perspectives that make up our Los Angeles community,” Evans told the International Paralympic Committee. “We’re thrilled to launch our Athletes’ Commission with 18 phenomenal Olympians and Paralympians who will undoubtedly broaden our understanding of how to make the L.A. ’28 Games amazing for all communities.”
In addition to helping L.A. 2028 and adaptive surfing, Nichols recently found herself back in her wheelchair basketball chair, coaching a recreation league in Reno, Nevada.
Competing at another Paralympic Games may be out of the question, but Nichols has found meaning in helping in as many areas as possible. And she is glad as an athlete to not have had the interruption to her training imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“How devastating would that be if you were training for an endurance sport, you were peaking, and then they were like, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be another year.’ Then you had to do another year full of work. Oh my God! I was like, ‘I’m so glad I retired.’”