Edmonton athletes ready to make Canada proud at 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympics
Michelle Salt and Kirk Schornstein are participating in snowboarding and para alpine skiing respectively
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For Michelle Salt, hours after she woke up from surgery that removed her right leg in 2011, becoming a paralympian was the only thing that made sense.
“I knew I needed a goal in order to get myself through the agonizing recovery and rehab as well as the dark days and moments,” she said.
She didn’t stay put long.
Only two and a half years after a motorcycle accident resulted in the loss of her leg, the Edmontonian became the female Canadian paralympic snowboarder in history.
Now she is getting back on the board for a second time at the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympics that started March 9, ready to represent Canada again.
“I’m going to get up there and I’m going to do this for my country and for everyone who has helped me get here,” she said. “I am just going in to do my best and to potentially inspire the next generation and get other women involved in sports."
The six-sport event for athletes with disabilities includes 55 Canadian athletes participating in para ice hockey, para nordic (cross-country skiing), para alpine skiing, para snowboarding and wheelchair curling.
The paralympics also include a biathlon, although no Canadian athlete is participating.
Salt was going 120 km/hr on her motorcycle when she lost control and hit a guardrail headfirst in 2011. The collision left her with a punctured lung, a bruised spleen, a broken hip and leg, and a severed femoral artery which could have killed her.
She believes competing in a fitness competition just a month and a half before her accident was the reason she didn’t die, despite bleeding out for 23 minutes.
She says because her disability is relatively new to her, it still poses a challenge.
“For me my biggest barrier, still to this day, is allowing my body to adapt ... (and accept) that I’m having to do it differently,” she said.
“Because I rode for 13 years with two legs. It was a huge adjustment — snowboarding with a prosthetic leg, on a knee joint that was no longer mine.”
Which is why for Salt, the competition is more about the journey than earning a medal.
“I’m not thinking of the results. Because I know, often when I think of them I end up not riding my best. So I’m focused on the process and journey to get here and not the outcome,” she said.
Unlike Salt, Spruce Grove native Kirk Schornstein has his eyes set for the podium for alpine skiing. Although he came in sixth at the downhill on March 10, he says he tried his best.
“I beat one guy that I never beat before so I’m really happy with that right? I meant that’s kind of like my gold medal. I put my heart and soul into that run and I did the best that I could,” he said.
This is Schornstein's third year competing in the paralympics, and with a second place in World Championships under his belt from last year, he believes he has a good chance.
Schornstein has Erb’s palsy due a malfunction during birth that has left his right arm paralyzed.
Despite being disabled, he chose to compete against able-bodied athletes between the ages of eight to 14 to challenge himself.
“I came into last place quite often but I also managed to rank top 30,” he said. “It was a very, very good experience and exactly what I needed to get onto this team.”
He first made it to the Olympics in 2010 at the age of 16. In Sochi 2014, despite crashing and tearing a ligament, Schornstein continued racing and came eighth.
He says he is really proud to represent his country for a third time.
“I’m really proud to be wearing the colours on my jacket and have the Maple Leaf on my back. We, as Canadians, are known as very loveable people so I’m very proud of who we are."