Tag Archives: Sochi

SCI Superstar: Muffy Davis

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A wife, mother and seven-time Paralympic medalist, Muffy Davis is one of the most well-known disabled athletes in the US. Successful in both wheelchair racing and skiing, she’s won dozens of medals since breaking her back nearly 25 years ago.

But she’s more than just an athlete. A graduate of Stanford University and an internationally renowned motivational speaker who’s figured out the secret to sustained happiness, Muffy’s smarts are almost as impressive as her athletic success. Read on for the story of a woman determined to achieve her dreams and has shown the world that anything is possible in the process.

Why she’s fearless

Growing up in Sun Valley, Idaho, Muffy’s love to ski. She started when she was only 3 years old, and by the time he was 7 she told her mother she believed that God put her on Earth to be an Olympic ski racer. And early on Muffy displayed signs of athletic greatness. By the time she was 14 years old she was named to the US development team for up-and-coming Olympians. All systems were a go for Muffy to snag the Olympic gold medal she believed she was destined for.

However when she was 16 years old, tragedy struck when Muffy he broke her back while skiing on her home mountain. She lost control on a turn, sliding into some trees and breaking her back on impact.  Devastated about the prospect of never skiing again, Muffy’s mother took her to the National Center for Disabled Sports, where she got her first taste of adapted skiing.

Becoming a rock star athlete as a paralyzed person didn’t happen overnight for Muffy though. When she first gave alpine skiing a try, her lack of torso control because of her spinal cord injury made her uninterested in trying any further.  It wasn’t until 1995, six years after her injury and after graduating from Stanford with a degree in biology, when she attended a ski camp hosted by a Paralympian Sarah Wills where everything changed.

While at the sit-skiing camp, she tried a new kind of mono-ski – the Yeti – that helped with her balance, and the rest was history. From there, Muffy became feverishly impassioned about alpine skiing. Within three years, she was named to the US Paralympic ski team and attended her first Paralympics in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.  It was here where she won a bronze medal in Slalom.

Two years later, she was named world champion at the Giant Slalom event for alpine skiing, and from there it just got better. In 2002 at the Paralympics in Salt Lake City, she won three silver medals for Super G, Downhill and Giant slalom. On top of skiing, climbing mountains was another pursuit Muffy just had to try. In 2002, she and four other disabled climbers ascended Mount Shasta in California- a peak of 14,179 feet – completely independently using a Snowpod, a hand-cranked tracked snowmobile.

And two years after the Paralympics in Utah, Muffy’s life changed even more when she got married, marrying Jeff Burly, who she met while training (he was a manager at the adapted athletics facility). A few years later in 2009, they had their daughter Elle.

It was after the birth of her daughter when Muffy tried hand-cycling to get back in shape, and she found she was dang good at this sport too. In 2012, she went to the Paralympics in London and won three gold medals in hand-cycling – the H1-3 road race, the H1-4 team relay and the H1-2 individual time trial.

What’s next?

Earlier this month, Muffy was also at the Sochi Paralympic Games cheering on Team USA. She’s also gone on to become a dedicated motivational speaker and life coach, giving speeches to companies and groups all over the world on how hard work can get you almost anything you set your mind to. She’s also given TED speeches. Check it out

Setting her sights on the Rio Paralympics in 2016, with the goal of successfully defending her three racing gold medals, Muffy has no interest in retiring. She may be 42 when the Rio games arrive, but that ain’t stopping her one bit. If a spinal cord injury couldn’t stop Muffy’ from her athletic pursuits, age certainly won’t either.

Check out her site: MuffyDavis.com

How has Muffy inspired you?

Watch the videos

Muffy Davis – Inspiration & Motivation

Muffy Davis – Induction – Hall of Fame

TEDxBloomington — Muffy Davis — “Different Does Not Mean Less”

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SCI Superstar: Sonja Gaudet

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Considered one of Canada’s super athletes and a world champion in the sport of curling, Sonja Gaudet may be one of the most competitive people in a wheelchair you’ll ever meet. A wife, a mother and a Paralympic gold medalist, her injury has only fueled her desire to be active.

But she wasn’t this way right away. After meeting with Rick Hansen, another SCI superstar we’ve profiled who hails from Canada, she was able to fully understand what it meant to still be able to do everything she used to, but just a little bit differently. And that was when this born and bred athlete was ready to take on adaptive sports.

Read on for the awesome story of reclaiming oneself in the eyes of Sonja Gaudet.

Why she’s fearless

It was a freak horse accident that changed Sonja’s entire life. Living in Vernon, British Columbia, Sonja loved having horses, and she and her husband rode often.  But while returning home from a solo trail ride one day in 1997, Sonja’s horse decided to start bucking, and after bucking forcefully, the horse fell over landing on Sonya, and dislocating her T6 vertebrae in the process.

Sonja’s however didn’t dwell on her injury and what it took from her for too long.  Before her injury through life was all about athletics – softball and volleyball growing up – and after she was married her husband competed in a lot of different athletic pursuits. The competitive spirit was just within her, so no one was surprised when Sonja decided to try all the different adapted sports that were available to her.

She tried wheelchair basketball, monoskiing, wheelchair racing and many others, but the sport that stuck was wheelchair curling. At first she only tried it out as a way to have fun with family and friends, but soon realized she had a talent for it.  After creating a bar that’s attached to her chair that she can lean into when throwing the stone, her game got even better. So good in fact that it got the attention of the head of the Canadian Paralympic curling team.

Before she knew it, she was on the team and headed to her first Paralympics – the Torino winter games in 2006 – and the Canadian team won gold, making her love the for even more (if that was even possible). She returned to the winter Paralympics in 2010 when they were in Vancouver, winning gold in curling as a member of the Canadian curling team once again.

Considering the fact that her children were quite young when her injury occurred, I can only imagine how proud they must have been to see their mom win these amazing accolades in her sport.

What’s next?

At 48 years old with her kids now teenagers, Sonja is still at the top of her game.  She was even named the flag bearer for the Canadian Paralympic team at the Sochi winter Paralympic games, which are currently underway.

Being an athlete is only one part of who Sonja is however. She’s an ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation, helping newly injured people figure out their way in life, and she’s also become a public speaker, sharing her story and how there is life after disability.

Good luck in Sochi, Sonja (Canada is currently in 1st place at Sochi)! And we thank you so much for doing so much good in the spinal cord injury community. Your spirit is stronger than any able-bodied athlete around.

– Visit her site: Sonja Gaudet

Have you heard Sonja speak?

Watch the videos

SONJA GAUDET: Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame 2013

Milestones of Champions | Episode 2 | Sonja Gaudet

Josh Dueck & Sonja Gaudet talk about SCI Peer mentors

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