Paralympic Nordic Skier, Joy Rondeau, talks about growing up with a disability, how she got into skiing and how she trained for the 2018 Paralympics.
Joy Rondeau made her Paralympic debut on March 9, 2018 in PyeongChang. The Granby, Colo. native was born with Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP). HSP symptoms are similar to those of cerebral palsy (CP), but it is more progressive than CP, so it requires different treatment. Her brother was born with the same condition, so growing up she didn’t feel any different.
“I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me,” Rondeau says. “I only knew that people kept telling me there was something different happening.”
Rondeau has always been an athlete. She played wheelchair rugby until she sustained an injury and had to have surgery. After giving up wheelchair rugby, the 29-year-old was introduced to Nordic skiing in 2014 and initially had no interest in the sport.
“My coach, Mark Birdseye, sent me videos of Nordic [skiing] and I remember thinking ‘what’s wrong with these people? Why would anyone do this to themselves? It looks painful,’” Rondeau says. “For some reason, I tried it and hated it, but I also had an incredible feeling of accomplishment and loved it all at the same time.”
Making it to the 2018 Paralympics was a shock for Rondeau. She has been dealing with an injury for over a year, and just three months ago it was so bad she thought she was going to have to quit skiing all together.
“The fact that I am still skiing is pretty unbelievable in itself,” she says. “So, when I found out I was coming to the Paralympics I was completely shocked. I am so unimaginably proud to represent Colorado, USA and the Lord at the Paralympic Games and to compete side by side with some of the best athletes in the world.”
Training for the Paralympics was very important for her. She trains six to seven days a week for four hours a day, whether its skiing or weightlifting. So far in PyeongChang, Rondeau has competed in Women’s Sitting Biathlon. She finished with a final time of 4:42.42 on March 14.
“During the rest of my time here, I hope to push myself and compete to the best of my ability,” she says. “I will not be happy unless I know I have given it my all at the end of every race. Skiing is very therapeutic and freeing for me. I have always been dependent on my mobility equipment to get around but with Nordic I am literally able to climb mountains.”
Rondeau loves biathlon because of the challenge it brings.
“I enjoy the mental and control and focus required for biathlon when controlling your heart rate to be able to shoot,” she says.
Rondeau’s advice to athletes with dreams of making to the Paralympics is “to be bold when opportunities knock and use whatever gifts God has given you to their full potential. Diligent hands will rule.”
You can watch Team USA compete in the Paralympics on NBCsports.com.