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There's nothing easy about what para snowboarder Alex Massie does

It's understandable to take one look at Alex Massie and envision an offensive lineman. Indeed, the burly Canadian played high school football. But the Barrie, Ont., native is making para snowboard the sport to dominate, and he's using imposing size to help him get there.

Burly Canadian athlete doesn’t look the part but uses imposing size to his advantage

Para snowboarder Alex Massie’s improbable journey to the pinnacle of his sport is driven by a positive attitude and an unbending sense of optimism. (Submitted by Gavin Crawford/Canada Snowboard)

Even on Alex Massie's hulking hand, his shimmering ring sticks out.

"It's my family crest. The motto at the bottom is fac et spera, and it means do and hope," he explains.

It's how Massie approaches life.

"My dad once told me when I was a little kid, it's easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. So, go out there, try it and hope it works out," Massie says, cracking a large smile.

It's a smile the 22-year-old para snowboarder had on his face for the entire 30-minute interview.

The Barrie, Ont., native has reason to be happy. Since joining the national team in 2014, Massie has consistently finished in the top 10, highlighted with numerous World Cup podiums.

Massie says a lot of people do a double take when they find out he is a snowboarder.

At 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, the burly Massie does not look the part. But he uses it to his advantage.

"I'm not the same size as most guys, I'm a lot bigger so I ride knowing that I'm bigger, and that I don't get pushed around out there and so it allows me to go into a corner [strong]," Massie explains. 

"I try to race smart and not do risky things that are going to endanger anyone but you know, if you're in a corner and there's a guy beside me and we touch, I know that I'm probably going to ride away and he won't."

Alex "Bubz" Massie has a pretty cool Instagram feed, with lots of shots of him at big-time para snowboarding events in countries around the world. But, like most people, his story goes way deeper than that. Here, he lets CBC Sports into his gym, his truck and his home, to share a frank look at what his life is like. 5:41

Improbable journey

His improbable journey to the pinnacle of his sport is driven by a positive attitude and an unbending sense of optimism. 

The journey to Pyeongchang began when Massie was 16. He suffered a major injury in 2011 while wake boarding and doctors told him and his family it was likely he would lose his leg

"I thought my life was over to be honest," he recalls.

Massie was transported to a Toronto hospital where staff worked feverishly to save his leg but it wasn't possible.

"They came in, it was a Friday, she said, 'I've got bad news, you're going to lose your foot,'" Massie recalls.

"She did this pinch test and I was watching her, she was pinching on my heel and mentally I was like, I want to feel this and I was trying to make myself believe that I could feel it but I couldn't and that was when they knew it had to go."

After being released, Massie suffered a number of initial setbacks including a number of infections and a serious blood clot that sent him back to the hospital.

But by the summer of 2012, Massie was beginning to regain some mobility.

"I was back up at my cottage and went wake surfing and right away and I just kind of knew, you know nothing's going to hold me back."

Massie quickly became comfortable with his prosthetic leg which allowed him to reconnect to the sports he'd been passionate about before his accident including football and snowboarding.

By the fall of 2013, Massie was able to make the Barrie North Collegiate Sr. Wildcats as a starter on the team's offensive line.

And then there was snowboarding. It was a sport he's done since he was four years old, when he got his first board for Christmas.

"I was like well, I'm going to go to the Paralympics and that fall, they were making a big push to try to make snowboarding into the Paralympics and I was like well, that's what I'll do," Massie says.

"I knew I was going to snowboard again. I knew I was going to play football and the opportunity arose and I'm kind of not much of a feel it out guy."

Massie reflects on the multiple efforts to save his foot, and the moment he knew it couldn't be saved. 1:21

Excelled quickly

Massie excelled quickly in the world of competitive snowboarding.

In 2014, he captured gold at the Alberta Provincials and the Canadian para snowboard championships.

"I showed up, didn't really know how I'd do and the guys had just come back from racing in Sochi," Massie recalls with a smile.

He told his mother he felt comfortable riding with Canada's best and thought he could actually excel.

"The next day I went up and I won by like two-and-a-half seconds and I was like, yup, this is, this is it. We're not just along for the ride now, we're going to go and take hold of the wheel and take this thing for a little joy ride."

In recent years, Massie's joy ride has taken him around the world, where he has captured World Cup medals and enjoyed X Games success as one of the sport's best.

Massie wants people to understand there is nothing easy about what he does. Para snowboarders navigate the same course and the same massive jumps as able-body riders do.

"I think more and more people are starting to understand like, 'these guys are legit.' They're full-time athletes, they're not just out here on Sundays like throwing on their snowboard and going for the race," Massie says.

"You know, like seven days a week I'm an athlete. I don't have any real job that I have to go to, I wake up and this is my job, this is what I do. I'm serious about it, I'm full time, I want to win."

Massie will now try and achieve success on the world's biggest stage in Pyeongchang.

"If I work my hardest and if that means I get sixth, so be it, but if that means I'm atop of the podium, listening to O Canada, watching that flag go up, that would be a dream come true."

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