Paralympic snowboarder Michelle Salt takes the podium at MRU

Salt gives inspiring talk to students on turning hardships into motivation

It was a different day in the classroom for students in Professor David Legg's Adapted Physical Activity class (HPED 3320) on Feb. 4. No lesson plan could have prepared them for the inspiring and eye-opening life lesson that motivational speaker, Michelle Salt, has been sharing with audiences worldwide.

Salt, a member of Canada's first paralympic snowboard team, realtor, motivational speaker and fitness model - just to name a few of her accomplishments - wants to challenge young people to do great things and to learn from tragedy to change their lives for the better.

"I challenge students to do amazing things and to take life into their own hands and make success happen for themselves," says Salt.

David Legg, PhD, professor in the Bachelor of Health and Physical Education and paralympic athlete Michelle Salt.
- photo by Laura Camelo

Salt explained to students that she wasn't a part of the "popular crowd" growing up. She struggled to fit in as a teenager and lacked self-confidence, but she eventually found her stride on the slopes with the dream of one day becoming a professional snowboarder - a dream that would come about in one of the most unbelievable ways.

On June 2011, at the age of 26, Salt was in a life-threatening motorcycle accident that changed her life as she knew it. With a punctured lung, broken hips and pelvis, multiple broken bones in her legs, and a severed femoral artery the outlook was dire.

"The last time the rescue personnel lost my vitals, I remember having an out-of-body experience in which I saw myself dying," said Salt. "At this moment, I realized that I had to be brave and fight for my life … I chose to fight."

She says her survival was a physical and spiritual one.

Although her right leg had to be amputated eight inches above the knee, Salt was determined not to stop neglecting her passion for sport. Within eight months of her accident, she was back on her snowboard, defying the odds against her and training for the 2014 Winter Paralympic's in Sochi.

"I learned to do everything I was doing before, plus so much more, and I refuse to let the loss of a limb define me and keep me from doing the things I love," said Salt.

More than just an opportunity to learn about physical literacy and adapted physical activity at its best, students were able to explore many topics through a Q&A with Salt, who took an 'ask-me-anything' approach with the MRU crowd. From questions about what types of bindings she uses on her board, to more personal questions regarding what it feels like to overcome disability, the students were able to engage with the Olympic athlete one-on-one.

"I'm an athlete and recently went through an injury myself," said Heinrich Dijkman, MRU student. "Although it has set me back in reaching my goals, I take what (Michelle) said as an inspiration to keep pushing as hard as I can and never take no for an answer."

In March 2014, Salt became the first female Canadian Paralympic snowboarder. She placed ninth at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games in the snowboard cross event. Salt continues to prove that anything is possible when you work hard, being featured in fitness magazine such as Oxygen and STRONG and sharing her story in hope to inspire others.

"I've known Michelle for a while, and I wanted my students to see what an incredible example she is," said David Legg, PhD, professor in the Bachelor of Health and Physical Education. "She has a lot to teach young people about resilience and hard work."

- Laura Camelo, Feb 17, 2015