U.S. Paralympics Sno... Features Paralympian Nicole R...

Paralympian Nicole Roundy Misses Competition, Teammates, But Happy In Retirement

By Bob Reinert | Nov. 06, 2020, 1:26 p.m. (ET)

 Nicole Roundy competes during the Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1 at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games on March 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. 

By the time she walked off the snow at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Nicole Roundy had been through enough.

“I was mentally, physically and emotionally just kind of exhausted,” Roundy recalled. “It takes a lot out of you, and we make a lot of sacrifices. You sacrifice your personal life, hobbies that you had, goals that you had. It’s all consuming.”

In the two years prior to the 2018 Games, injuries had taken their toll on Roundy’s body.

“You can only kind of fight that for so long,” she said.

Thus ended a snowboarding career that included two Paralympic Games and three world championship bronze medals in the SB-LL1 classification. At PyeongChang, she placed fourth in banked slalom and fifth in snowboardcross, narrowly missing a medal. 

“That’s the one thing that kind of everyone wants,” Roundy said. “Everything you do is for that. It’s one moment, and only three people end up on the podium. I got very close.”

Yet, Roundy had gone further than she expected. After the 2014 Sochi Games, she had contemplated retiring.

“I made a very, very conscious decision to keep going and to compete in South Korea,” Roundy said. “That decision came with the realization that my career wasn’t going to last forever.”

Roundy decided to enjoy the journey, no matter the outcome.

“I think that was kind of a turning point for me,” Roundy said. “And so at that point, each trip started to feel more personal for me.”

She credited fellow Team USA snowboarder Amy Purdy, her training partner and travel companion, with helping Roundy to continue.

“It made the experience so much more enjoyable having a friend there always to kind of talk to,” said Roundy, “and have somebody that understands what you’re trying to do and what you’re going through.”

I made a very, very conscious decision to keep going and to compete in South Korea. That decision came with the realization that my career wasn’t going to last forever.

One lesson Roundy learned in the aftermath of Sochi, where she was eighth in snowboardcross, was not to seek validation through competitions and results. She achieved peace with herself if she had done her best.

“It means that at the end of the day, you walk away and you’re grateful for what you had in your life at that moment,” Roundy said. “And sometimes that has to be good enough.”

Now 34, Roundy has given her best since 1994, when at age 8 she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Her right leg was eventually amputated above the knee.

“I learned how to fight when I was little,” Roundy said. 

The transition from competitive athlete to working professional has posed the latest challenge for Roundy. She admitted that the first year away from Team USA was rough.

“I think it’s definitely been a process,” Roundy said. “You’re walking away from an environment you’ve been a part of for so long.”

While she could always snowboard, Roundy missed her teammates, the travel and that feeling of being a part of something bigger than oneself. 

“It’s really hard to replicate that feeling outside of sport,” she said.

Roundy, who recently completed her master’s degree in business administration, said she has found some of that feeling in her work as a front-end coder for an Indianapolis software company for which she works remotely from her home in Salt Lake City.

“They’re very team-oriented,” she said. “I’m really enjoying it.”

Also helping with the transition is Jake, a three-legged dog that Roundy adopted two years ago. “He has been a real lifesaver for me,” said Roundy, “not the other way around.”

Ever the athlete, Roundy remains active by doing yoga, riding her exercise bike and lifting weights. She pointed out that the workouts help her remain mentally sharp and provide structure to her days. 

“That’s really critical for me,” Roundy said. “I know how much that helps me stay focused and motivated.”

Though she said she feels “a hundred percent” better than when she was a competitive snowboarder, Roundy hasn’t completely left Paralympics behind. She still works in the background as a board member of Move United, the organization formed by the merger of Disabled Sports USA and Adaptive Sports USA.

“I think that that has been my way of still being involved in the Paralympic world,” Roundy said. “It’s been a great experience for me. I think it’s been very critical to my health, just … being able to still have a role in it all. 

“I love that group of people. They do some very selfless and amazing things.”

Bob Reinert

Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to USParaSnowboarding.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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