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Losing 75% of her leg put this woman on the world stage.

Inspiring? Impressive? Neither of those words really cut it when we’re talking about a 29 year old woman who lost her leg and then went on to represent her country.

Michelle Salt was never a popular kid growing up. She was bullied for years and was always trying to fit in but could never quite find her place. And from her teens, she struggled into her adult life.

An adrenaline junkie, she loved doing things that made her blood race and was always especially passionate about snowboarding. She hoped to be a professional boarder one day. But in June 2011, she had a major accident that completely changed her outlook on life.

Michelle Salt.

“I hit a guardrail on my motorcycle doing 120 kilometres an hour,” Michelle says.

“My accident was one that I would never wish upon anyone. My family had to sit in a room waiting to hear if I was going to live.

She broke a lot of bones and almost bled to death. She spent seven days on life support and ended up losing 75% of her right leg.

“Simple things that I once took for granted became milestones like washing my own hair, being able to sit up on my own for 15 seconds and going outside to enjoy the fresh air,” says Michelle.

She explains that it was hard to go back to living a normal life.

“I had to start over in so many ways and though, sure, I had my tough moments, I knew I had to push through my rehab in order to get back on my snowboard.”

Michelle Salt carving it up. Photo credit: Andrew Jay Photography at Big White Ski Resort.

Many would’ve given up on their snowboarding dreams. But this is where Michelle was different.

“Within a day of learning the news about my amputation, I decided that I would become a paralympian,” she says.

And that’s exactly what she did.

The young Canadian grew up on a farm near a small town outside of Alberta. She always wanted to be a professional snowboarder but got sidetracked by work, life and relationships.

“I stopped putting as much effort into progressing in the park and found I wasn’t getting out on the mountain as much as I wanted…Until after my accident of course,” she tells me.

Before the accident Michelle did a couple of snowboarding competitions but not at an elite level. It wasn’t until she came close to death, and lost most of one leg, that she got to represent her country at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games.

Representing her country. Photo credit: Andrew Jay Photography at Big White Ski Resort.

When asked about the experience she says it was unreal.

“I always dreamed of what competing at an Olympic level would be like and well, it’s still surreal to think I was able to experience it,” she says.

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“Walking in to the opening ceremonies with 40, 000 people cheering for you, to crossing the finish line after competing on one of the most technical courses you’ve ever rode. It was life changing to say the least.”

The journey to get there wasn’t easy. When first getting back into snowboarding, Michelle didn’t know much about the prosthetic sports knee she was using and her balance was completely off.

“For me, it was more a mental thing than anything,” she admits. “It was hard not to get frustrated because I once knew how to snowboard well and here I was starting over all again.”

But she got up and nailed it. Photo credit: Andrew Jay Photography at Big White Ski Resort.

But getting back up and carving that powder again was one of Michelle’s proudest achievements. Then to go on to represent her country – next level.

And her advice for others:

I’ll never forget the day I decided to pack up all my high heels as I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear them anymore. Here I was sobbing like a baby and telling myself, “Michelle something beautiful will come out of this and heels will be the last thing on your mind.” I was right.

Your future is in your hands and once you start believing that you can overcome anything, beautiful things start to happen. Invest in yourself by setting goals, embracing change and learning to love what you still have.

This weekend, Michelle will be competing in the IPC Para-snowboard World Cup at Big White Ski Resort. This is the third year in a row that Big White has hosted the World Cup.

If you want to vote for your favourite Australian sporting star (especially giving the women some love) you can vote for the AIS Performance of the Year people’s choice award. Vote here. http://www.ausport.gov.au/

And in other sporting news this week…

Australian cyclist Rochelle Gilmore announced the forming of a new Australian women’s cycle team. It will be called High5 Dream Team. It is aimed at talented Australian female cyclists who need professional guidance and support. The hope is to get young Australian riders to the European peloton.

– The tennis Australian Open is starting this week and there has been some concern that local female players have been overlooked for the final women’s singles wildcard spot in the Grand Slam event. It has been reported that an Asian competitor may have been selected. It is believed that Tennis Australia decided not to choose an Aussie player after talking with national selectors. Some aspiring young women are understandably disappointed. 

 – A major sponsor of Cycling Australia has hit out at the recent budget cuts to an Australian women’s cycling training program. The team owner of the Australian cycling organisation, Gerry Ryan, has said cutting a women’s road development program was wrong. He is concerned the decision will disadvantage female Australian cyclists. He was pretty unhappy that he was never consulted about the matter. We hope the girls’ get their training program back soon.