Colorado Mesa University senior one step closer to becoming a U.S. Paralympian |

Colorado Mesa University senior one step closer to becoming a U.S. Paralympian

Courtesy Photo
Staff Photo |

Colorado Mesa University’s Heidi Duce, a 22-year-old senior, is one step closer to realizing her dream — to represent the United States in snowboard cross at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Russia.

“In the last race of the year, at the (IPC USASA Nationals on Copper Mountain) I ended up winning and being national champ,” Duce said. “I’m officially part of the U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding Team!”

This is a big accomplishment for Duce, after only one season (2012-13) of full-time competition as an adaptive snowboarder.

Duce’s chosen event, snowboard cross, is new to the Paralympics. According to the official website of the U.S. Paralympics Team ( “In May 2012, the International Paralympic Committee announced that snowboard cross will be included in the alpine skiing program at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, March 7-16, in Russia. The Paralympic competition is open to men and women with lower limb impairments.”

Though Duce noted the official team going to Russia won’t be named until February, she’s determined she’ll be on it.

“I love it,” she said. “I’ll be traveling all winter. I’m going to Austria, Canada, Germany and then hopefully Russia.”

Duce, also an avid kayaker and ice climber originally from Ouray, was born with Fibular Hemilia, a congenital defect where the development of her right leg never finished. She was born without a fibula and many foot and ankle bones. She’s additionally had two amputations — the first as a toddler and the second a few years ago. She uses a prosthetic leg specially fit for competition.

“She’s an adapter,” said Chad Thatcher, Duce’s friend, mentor and director of CMU’s Outdoor Program (O.P.). “What she can do, it’s not a disability at all. She’s turned disability into advantages everywhere she’s turned. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her.”

Duce became highly involved with the O.P. as a CMU freshman, and credits the program as an inspiration to her life. The O.P. acts as the university’s center for outdoor, adventure education, and it offers international, regional and local trips focused on being active outside. Such a program is right up Duce’s alley because she’s currently studying for a degree in adaptive physical education. Though she’s taken time off from school to train, Duce aims to return to CMU to finish her degree in Spring 2014.

“With this background as an Olympian, she’ll be able to go all the way with her career,” Thatcher said.

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