You are a professional snowboarder, taking part in your last training run for the day.
You try for a jump – a big one – and you know, as soon as you’re in the air, that you’ve done something wrong. That something is about to happen, and it’s not going to be be good.
You’re in the air for far too long. You come down, you miss the landing and you land – hard – on the left side of your body.
You fracture vertebrae, you compress the discs in your back, you dislocate your hip, you tear your pelvis, you tear a hamstring.
Your rehabilitation is bound to be long. Your body will never be the same. You will probably never be able to snowboard again.
So what do you do?
You put yourself through extensive rehab. You work your butt off to get better. You take a serious interest in your own health, and open a brand new health and fitness studio in Melbourne.
All of the above is exactly what Stephanie Prem, professional snowboarder, managed to do after a major accident in 2010.
Her story is a truly remarkable one – full of resilience, strength and surprises.
I had a chat to Steph to find out more about her life, her snowboarding career and her brand new pilates studio.
Here’s what she had to tell me:
Nat: How did you get into the whole snowsports thing?
Steph: I started skiing as a kid and I absolutely hated it. I couldn’t do it. I was just lucky that my parents became passionate about snowsports later in their life and really enjoyed it, so they encouraged me and bought me a secondhand snowboard when I was 12, for my birthday. My dad had taken up snowboarding in the 80s and he still snowboards today – he’s 61! He taught me how to snowboard when I was 12 and I’ve never turned back.
Did you always want to be an Olympian?
I never thought I’d be an Olympian. Growing up, it wasn’t one of my hopes and dreams and I just never even thought it would be possible for me. I’m just REALLY competitive and love sports, and when I started snowboarding, I just found a little outlet for my fever.
I only really started believing in the Olympic dream when I was 18 or 19, and this started to follow through into my riding. It became a lot more clear to me that there was a possibility of being an international champion. I was studying art, drama at dance at uni at the time and just thought – I’ll put this on hold and go out and give snowboarding a go for a year. Fast-forward six or seven years, I followed through and went to the Olympics! It was very late to the game in terms of professional sport, but I made it.
I’m guessing the Olympics was the highlight of your snowboarding career?
Yep – nothing else in my life will ever compare to the moment of standing at the top of a racecourse, ready to compete for your nation. But there are other highlights too, such as when I won the overall Canadian championship. At the time, I was travelling with no support, no help and no funding, just living with host families at different ski resorts and joining different ski clubs and different ski teams and having a go. Winning the championship gave me the drive to move forward for the next few years – it reminded me that everything is possible.
Everyone thinks the professional snowboarding life is a really glamorous one – would you agree with that?