Para Snowboarder Speeds to Success


Sean Yang , Staff Writer

After finishing in high rankings in several competitions, Kiana Clay has become the first para snowboarder to be signed by the Burton Team Riders. This is a team that is composed of Olympic snowboarder legends such as Kelly Clark and Shaun White. Although Clay has been making a name for herself, she may not be able to compete in the Paralympics until 2026, but she is working to change that.

Clay first became a paralympic athlete after she suffered an unfortunate accident at a young age. After crashing her bike when she was just 12, she was unable to move her right arm. 

Unfortunately, only a few weeks after that incident, both Clay and her father were hit by a drunk driver which caused their truck to flip over. This event would result in her arm never being able to recover, even after an intensive 14 hour session of a nerve graft procedure.

To adapt to this situation, Clay began to train herself to do daily activities by using her functioning arm. She learned how to write, play video games, and even tie her own hair. However, it wasn’t until she found snowboarding that she truly discovered her passion as an athlete.

Clay garnered attention for herself after achieving promising results in a couple of domestic competitions which awarded her a spot in the Burton Team as well as in the Olympics. However, due to not having enough competitors in the 2022 Beijing Games, Clay is unable to compete as the sport is not being included in the 2022 Games. To combat this, she is creating a petition in order to get her sport a spot in the 2022 Games.

“We really need that class in the next Games, it’s about encouraging the next generation, making that future possibility,” said Clay. 

To get prepared for the Games, Clay trains at the gym almost every day. She also practices snowboarding as well as meets with a nutritionist and sports psychologists in order to stay sharp. 

These days, in addition to keeping her snowboarding skills adept, Clay also works with Burton to enhance snowboarding gear for people with disabilities. She wants to develop a jacket that can be controlled by just one hand. Clay’s next goal is to amputate her useless arm below the elbow in order to remove dead weight.

Overall, we can all learn something from Clay’s story and that is to never give up. Even when she was put into a position of adversity, she came out strong and achieved success.

“I want to help people see beyond themselves, what their potential is and if they’re capable of putting in the work,” said Clay.


Photo Courtesy of NYTIMES.COM