The 2022 Winter Paralympics are complete, and we're spotlighting some of the reigning and emerging stars for Team USA. Here are six insights on Brittani Coury, a registered nurse who won a silver medal in banked slalom at the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics and finished sixth in snowboard-cross. You'll learn about their journey, including in the formative years that helped propel that athlete to become one of the nation's — and world's — best.
1. Brittani Coury calls Colorado her home.
Brittani Coury was born in Farmington, New Mexico but calls Durango, Colorado, her hometown. "My childhood was pretty rough," Brittani told Team USA. "I had a lot of abandonment issues, and a lot of things happen most people never have to go through in a lifetime happen in a span of a few years." She describes herself as a rebel, and she quit sports like football and softball because they were too organized. She started snowboarding at 13, and she enjoyed its freedom. "When I was hitting jumps, the only thing I was focusing on was snowboarding, and everything else around me and in my life was absent," she says.
2. She broke her ankle in 2003, which ultimately led to leg amputation in later years.
In 2003, though, Brittani broke her right ankle while snowboarding. She continued to have problems with the ankle, requiring nine surgeries. One doctor told her that her ankle was like that of a 70-year-old. Brittani chose to have the leg amputated below the knee in June 2011. "Since I lost my foot from a snowboarding-related accident, my family had a really hard time with my decision to amputate," she told Disabled Sports USA in December 2017. "They struggled with it, more so than I did. They couldn't really relate to why I would opt to lose my foot to be active. They weren't in the same mindset that I was."
3. Brittani was inspired by those who helped her recover to pursue becoming a nurse.
She says her experience as a patient helps her as a nurse. "You don't know where life takes you, but I can say that I am now full circle," she said. "You may not understand your circumstances, but there can be some positivity coming out of the tough times. I know what it is like to need help from nurses, and now I can give back the love and care I received." During her hiatus, Brittani was able to earn her nursing degree.
4. She returned to snowboarding after a 5-year hiatus.
Brittani's ankle challenges meant she spent five years away from the sport. But after her amputation, she was able to return to the sport. Her coach Chris Koeppe told the Farmington Daily Times that the return was smooth. "She's been able to pick up a lot of this so fast," Koeppe said. "She's been able to adapt... with all the things that have happened with losing her leg."
5. Brittani first competed in Para-snowboarding in 2016.
Her breakthrough came at the 2018 Paralympics, where she won the silver medal in banked slalom. She says the key for her is to persist and see life as a journey. "There are obstacles I had to overcome to get where I am now. And those moments are not failures, and it's not the end," she told Fox 13. "It's shaping you for the next chapter, or what's coming up next. Just hold tight. It's going to work out."
6. She's not afraid of the challenges COVID brings to our society.
As a frontline health care worker, Brittani said she was not fearful of COVID while working as a nurse at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. "This is the biggest social thing we are facing in my lifetime," she told Team USA. "I am mentally ready and prepared for this. I am not afraid of getting the virus because I am here to help my patients. I am not afraid of dying either, because if that happens, it's because I was helping others, and I went out doing what I loved." She said her fear is passing on COVID to her patients, but she takes every precaution possible. "I love going to work every day. I love it as much as I love snowboarding," she adds. "My job is such an opportunity to give back."