Paralympic Winter Games
9-18 March

Duce aiming for improvement in 2015-16

Now a form the 2015-2016 US Paralympics Snowboarding National Team, Heidi Jo Duce aims to qualify for PyeongChang 2018. 09 Aug 2015
Heid-Jo Duce on her snowboard at a slalom event.
ⒸUnited States Paralympic Committee

“I am an incredibly competitive person and I feel like that shows in my riding on the course”.

US snowboarder Heidi Jo Duce has a renewed focus and solid training regime for 2015-16, which could see her maintain and improve on last season’s World Championships medal-winning performance.

Duce, who is entering her third season having taken the sport up competitively just two years before the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, is determined to maintain her steep progress.

“I feel like I have finally found a training regime that really works for me and that paid off last year,” Duce said. “I hope that I can keep on the positive track that I am currently on and continue to grow as an athlete. I am still relatively new to snowboard-cross so I just want to continue to get more comfortable taking features at speed”.

At the 2015 IPC Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain, Duce won bronze in the women’s snowboard-cross SB-LL1 and believes she is on the right track for 2015-16, too.

“I am very proud of both of my medals that I took home from Spain” she said. “For me they were solid proof of all of my hard work this past winter.

“I am an incredibly competitive person and I feel like that shows in my riding on the course”.

Duce made it to Sochi 2014 just over one year after competing for the US for the first time, finishing in what was to her a disappointing fifth place. But the experience gained was invaluable.

“My favourite memory from Sochi was walking into Opening Ceremony,” Duce said. “The fact that I had the opportunity to come to Sochi, to race and represent my country was a reality that hadn’t really hit me until we walked out on to the stage with the whole world cheering”.

Growing up in southwest Colorado, Duce began snowboarding at an adaptive camp when she was 13-years-old.

She snowboarded recreationally throughout her childhood and college before throwing everything at competitions two summers before snowboarding’s debut at Sochi 2014.

“I took a few semesters off of college, packed my life into the back of my car and gave it a shot”, she said.

Duce was born with fibular hemimelia, meaning she is missing her fibula and most of the foot and ankle bones in her right leg. When Duce was 18-months-old she had her leg amputated, and had a second corrective amputation at 19.

Duce loves all sports and during the off season she is a very avid white-water kayaker. She spends most weekends and weeknights paddling the rivers around Colorado.

“In my spare time I love to ice climb, rock climb, mountain bike and backpack. If it involves being outside I can guarantee you that I have probably done it,” she said.

This summer, Duce will be living the life of a semi-professional athlete which can often be very un-glamourous. She will be working as a mechanic and tire technician at her dad’s service station in Ouray, Colorado. Duce has to save money for next season, where her goals are to maintain and improve her form.

Duce’s ultimate aim is to qualify for PyeongChang 2018 as it represents her chance to redeem herself from her fifth place finish in Sochi. But that is not the only thing that motivates the latest world-class snowboarder to come out of the US.

“The Paralympic Games represent a chance to show to the world that even though we [myself and fellow competitors] were given extra obstacles on our lives we still can excel and be athletes that compete at an elite level,” she said. “It is a chance to set an example for others with disabilities and to prove that “disabled” is a state of mind and not a physical ailment”.

The 2015-16 IPC Snowboard calendar will be announced shortly.