GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Today the 2014 Winter Olympics kickoff. Immediately following, the Paralympic Games will begin with hundreds of athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities taking the spotlight, competing for their chance at gold.
KKCO 11 Sports had the opportunity to speak with retired Marine Sergeant Josh Elliott. From a young age, he loved snowboarding, but when tragedy unexpectedly struck, he set his sights on the 2018 Paralympics.
It was April 18th, 2011. Marine Sergeant Josh Elliott was on a mission in Afghanistan when one wrong move nearly cost him his life.
"There was a 20-pound explosive device that had been hidden in the roof of that building, and I stepped directly on it."
An emergency helicopter responded. Crews put Sgt. Elliott into medically induced coma, and it was what soon followed that changed his life forever.
"It was like a crushing darkness. There was nothing. It was completely void. And I turned and I faced a light. and I realized I was under the throne of God and the words that came across weren't heard by my ears but more felt, and it was simply are you ready...are you ready?"
Immediately, Josh knew his answer.
"I was not prepared whatsoever, so when that came across, are you ready, I was just no, no I'm not ready at all and I begged for my life, and it was like that."
Josh Elliott woke up in the hospital as a double-amputee veteran, but he was thankful to be alive.
"That moment was when God gave me a second chance, when God gave me my life back and said you're mine now."
After months of therapy, he was ready to try things he once loved, and snowboarding was at the top of that list, but it wasn't the same.
"I came off the hill about three days in a row just in tears, just broken."
That's when someone introduced him to monoskiing and instantly Josh knew he had found a new passion.
"Monoskiing quickly became one of the biggest therapies for me. Coming up on the mountain, getting that sense of equalization. I was able to ski as fast or faster than other skiiers,"
Before long he met a coach from the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club who left him with just a few words that made a lasting impression.
"He simply said you could be the best, and it sparked something in me that was so profound, and I said I could be the best. Maybe this is what I'm supposed to do."
For the last two years, Josh Elliott has been working hard, going through countless hours of training. Now he knows that even though he won't be serving in the Marines, serving and representing the United States as a skiier is well within reach.
"I could be the best, and that's why I'm trying to get to the 2018 Paralympics in Pyeong, Korea and ski for the United States, I want to bring home the gold. That's what I want to do.