Alana Nichols loves speed, sports, and snow. As a teenager, she spent winters snowboarding in Colorado.Then, in 2000, she attempted a flip, over-rotated, and landed hard on a rock. Her back was broken in three places.
As she told MEDAL QUEST, getting back into sports really brought her back from her injury. In 2002 she tried adaptive skiing and wheelchair basketball, and decided to focus on the court.
Alana made the national wheelchair basketball team in 2005 and was part of the 2008 Paralympic team that won gold at the Beijing games.
But the lure of the snow remained. A month after the Beijing Paralympics, Alana moved from Alabama to Winter Park, Colorado, to get back on the slopes, using a mono-ski. Soon she was winning again.
In March 2010, she completed her first IPC Alpine World Cup: first place in the downhill, second in super-combined, and third in super-G.
That same month, Nichols competed in the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver: two gold medals, a silver medal and a bronze medal.
Alana’s preparations for the Sochi Games were upended when she tore three ligaments in her shoulder in a training accident.
It looked as if Sochi might be a long shot, but after months of rehab, Nichols got back on her mono-ski and in early 2014 was back in top form, her confidence regained. She took two silver medals (downhill, super-G) and a bronze (super combined) in the Alpine Skiing World Cup in Canada – guaranteeing her a place on 2014’s alpine Team USA.
Here’s how she describes the thrill of alpine racing: “When you’re in a mono-ski, and you’re basically nuking, going like anywhere from seventy-five to eighty miles per hour, you get this thing called the speed wobbles. Basically your entire body and the machine and everything is just shaking, and that’s the point where you just gotta hold on and stick it out and, and just point it.”
Alana is the first American woman with gold medals in both Summer and Winter games.
Update from Sochi: Alana took home a silver medal in downhill sitting.
Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.