Alana Nichols On Why You Shouldn’t Find “Inspiration” In Disabled Athletes

REFINERY29—Alana Nichols is, no doubt, an inspiration. The 33-year-old New Mexico native is the first American female to win gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Games in two sports: basketball and alpine skiing. These are just a few of the accolades she’s picked up along the way while competing in every games, five total, from 2008 to 2016. As if that weren’t enough, Nichols decided to add a third sport — sprint kayaking — to her repertoire on her road to Rio. She makes mastering a new skill look easy, but it’s far from that. The three-time Paralympic champion, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since a snowboarding accident in 2000, has had more than her share of challenges. Losing use of her legs isn’t the worst of them. And though her talent and perseverance may inspire you, that’s not what she’s hoping her legacy will be.

Refinery29 caught up with the five-time Paralympian hours after she returned from Rio, where she competed as a rookie in parakayak, to learn more about what drives her, how she overcomes adversity, and why she’s not looking to inspire as much as educate — and get nods of respect.

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