Muffy Davis: Breaking Barriers

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Muffy Davis knows no bounds. She has won medals in multiple Paralympic Games as part of Team USA, holds over 25 World Cup titles, is a loving mother and wife and successful motivational speaker. She has triumphed through life’s challenges to become the accomplished woman she is today. 

As a young skier and Olympic hopeful, Davis’ journey to the Olympic Games was disrupted by a life-altering accident in the late 1980s. While traveling at over 45 MPH, she skied through a safety fence and hit two trees. Although her helmet saved her life, her spine was fractured, which rendered her paralyzed from her mid-chest down. Davis was only 16 years old. 

Although she was forced to confront her new disability, it marked the beginning of a rewarding and successful career. Instead of simply surviving, Davis chose to thrive. It was a combination of moments that led Davis to accept her fate and flourish with her new circumstances. 

“I was young; I was 16. After a couple years, I realized I wasn’t going to wake up and I didn’t want to miss 18. I had spent a lot of time in therapy and rehab. I looked at my mom and said, ‘Mom, I’m okay with this and you have to be too. I want to live. I want to move forward,’” said Davis. 

A year after her accident, Davis captured a glimpse of the world of adaptive sports when she saw the Disabled Alpine World Championships in Winter Park, Colorado. Her first reaction was “Hey, I can do that” and her fiery passion for competitive sports was once again ignited.

And so, Davis embarked on her journey to the Paralympics. Her hard work led her to the 1998 Nagano Paralympic Games where she won a bronze medal in Slalom; 2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic Games where she took home three silver medals for Downhill, Super G, and Giant Slalom; and the 2012 London Paralympic Games where she transitioned to handcycling and won three gold medals for individual H1-3 Road Race, H1-4 Team Relay, and H1-2 Individual Time Trial. 

Despite her unstoppable nature, Davis is only human and faces tough and stressful days like everyone else. To help her cope, she gives herself “grieving days” which she has been using for decades. 

After her accident, she felt compelled to maintain her usual upbeat personality to stay strong for her friends and family. Her mother encouraged her to embrace emotions such as anger and sadness to allow for a release. Grieving days are Davis’ way of embracing the negative feelings that can come with overwhelming days or painful events. 

“Basically, it’s just giving yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. We’re human. We have hard times. I like to acknowledge that it’s okay to have a bad day and give yourself permission to feel instead of stuffing it and burying it because it’ll stay with you,” Davis stated. 

Everyone can benefit from having their own grieving days as no one is immune to stress. But who motivates the motivational speaker when times get rough? Beyond grieving days, Davis has countless ways to boost her morale. 

“I try to stay in touch with my spirituality. My sports really help me a lot. For me, that’s my meditation, when I can go out and ride or do something physically active. But also, we have support groups. I have a sports psychologist that I talk to when I’m competing and she really helps keep me on track and focused,” she said. Davis also relies on the light of her life: her daughter, Elle. 

“She’s the best. She helps me and I can just let go of everything else, and sit and listen to her giggle and laugh. It all comes into perspective,” Davis said.

With a strong team of support and countless medals under her belt, Davis is constantly moving forward. She has wheeled across the Great Wall of China, went scuba diving through the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and conquered Mount Shasta in Northern California with the help of a SnowPod. 

Created by paraplegic and mountaineer Peter Rieke, the SnowPod is an innovative 45-pound vehicle, similar to a tractor, which is powered by a hand crank. The contraption rests on snowmobile treads to traverse the terrain. With each crank, the user is propelled a mere inch and a half. The summit that Davis climbed with the SnowPod was well over 14,000 feet. According to, Davis became the first female paraplegic mountaineer to summit a peak over 14,000 feet. 

Davis uses all of her experiences as a tool to empower women everywhere at all age levels. Currently, she is an ambassador for Right To Play, a global organization founded by Norwegian Olympic speed skater Johann Olav Koss and comprised of athlete ambassadors, coaches, and staff. The main goal of the organization is to use fun games and sports as a tool for teaching health lessons and life skills. Many of the ambassadors are also Olympians and it is not uncommon for them to donate their winnings to help fund the organization. 

“It’s very powerful. So much about being an athlete is really self-centered. It’s a great way to give back and help the world because we’ve been blessed,” said Davis. 

As a Right To Play ambassador, she worked in Ghana and used sports to teach AIDS awareness and prevention while inspiring young girls. Although Davis hasn’t been as involved since the birth of her daughter, she hopes to become more involved as Elle gets older. Her daughter is currently five years old. 

With world traveling, volunteering, and competing, Davis no doubt has an action-packed schedule. What’s next on her agenda? 

She hopes to finish her book and fulfill her lifelong passion of starting a non-profit so she can empower young girls and women everywhere through participation in sports. 

“I want to tie in female Olympic athletes and their daughters to run clinics and teach,” Davis said. Ideally, she can travel with her daughter to developing countries in Africa to teach different sporting programs. The diverse program would not only help disadvantaged women but teach girls “the value and importance of volunteering and giving back,” according to Davis.

When faced with the unthinkable, Davis has used her inner strength and the support of her loved ones to become the definition of a strong and successful woman. With the hopeful creation of her non-profit, she can help women everywhere harness their own inner strength. 

Regarding her aspiration to create a non-profit, she said, “My dream is to keep empowering women whether it is sports which are my medium, but also in work and business to be the best they can be, and reach their potential. We have so much to offer the world. My goal is to hopefully keep sharing that and show women how strong they all are.”

To view the original article please see our magazine titled “Break it Down” Vol 3, Issue 6 by Clicking Here

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