Joany Badenhorst says her achievements are a rebuff to men and boys who had doubted her because of her gender.
The Australian co-captain and star snowboarder has been rewarded for her dominant season with flag-bearing honours at the PyeongChang Paralympics opening ceremony.
The 24-year-old comes into the Games with two recent World Cup titles and will contest the women’s banked slalom and cross event next week.
Badenhorst said she was overwhelmed to be the first woman to receive the honour for a Winter Paralympics.
“I don’t like people telling me that I can’t do something, that I’m not good enough or that I can’t do it because I’m a girl,” she said.
“I heard that all my life, growing up with so many male cousins.
“I always proved them wrong, whether it was climbing a tree, jumping into a lake from 10m high or learning how to walk again.”
The South African-born Badenhorst, who lost her leg 13 years ago in a farming accident, did not compete in Sochi 2014 after being seriously injured on her final training run.
She broke her patella, collapsed her hip and dislocated her knee in a crash hours before she was meant to be the first Australian female Paralympic snowboarder.
Badenhorst won the most points for banked slalom this season on the World Cup tour and the most points overall for a para-snowboarder to be arguably the best chance to win Australia’s first gold medal in 16 years.
She attributes her resilience to owning the cards she’s been dealt, including being told after her accident she might not survive.
“I woke up the next day and I knew that was a lie and I was in control of my life,” she said.
“I have such incredible parents. They told me to be who I want to be. It might be a little bit of a different journey, but I’ll end up where I need to go.
“My accident was a horrible time in my life but it showed me who I am, what I can be and what I can achieve.
“Same with Sochi and the horrible crash. – without that massive failure, I wouldn’t have been this hungry for success.”
The opening ceremony will be held on Friday when the 15-strong Australian contingent, plus officials, will march.