As she approaches the fifth anniversary of the accident that paralyzed her, record-breaking Paralympic gold medallist Mallory Weggemann is in defiant mood.
The 23-year-old is determined January 21 will not be a day tainted with bitterness; instead she will focus on the string of seismic achievements she has made since her life was irreparably altered.
The current holder of 15 swimming world records refuses to accept the normal limits associated with disability, underlined by her latest conquest -- skiing.
Growing up in Minnesota, Weggemann says she used to dread the complexities thrown up by heavy snow that sometimes lingers for months, but after taking to the slopes in Stratton, Vermont, she feels she's reclaimed another slice of independence.
"It's been fun to be out there on the snow again and not be confined to four wheels," Weggemann told CNN from the slopes in Vermont.
"I'm reaching my five year anniversary of my paralysis in January and I haven't been able to enjoy winter yet. I grew up in Minnesota, with snow all around for a good six months of the year.
"I'd done a little bit of skiing before I was paralyzed and I wanted to be able to find a way to enjoy snow again, to enjoy the winter months. I used to dread them.
"I really wanted to have an activity that I can go out and do with my peers. When I'm on my ski I can go down any hill they go down. It's a level playing field."
Weggemann was only 19 when she became paralyzed from the waist down. A routine epidural injection during a bout of shingles went wrong and changed the course of her life forever.
Unbowed she has spent the last half decade smashing down the barriers most people assume are erected the instant such a tragedy occurs.
Within four months of the accident, the 23-year-old was back in the pool and about to launch a new career that would see her claim 13 gold medals at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships. As well as her world records she also holds 34 U.S. records.
Weggemann seems to take disappointment in her stride.
Despite having her disability reclassified by the event's governing body on the eve of the Paralympics last year, Weggemann absorbed the blow and took her first gold medal at the Games in the 50m freestyle, also adding a bronze in the 4x100m medley.
Her foray into the world of skiing is just the latest challenge she has overcome, as she works her way down a list that might deter even the fittest able-bodied athlete.
Armed only with a mono ski, and two hand skis, Weggemann had completed just one day of training with Rob Willis -- an instructor at Stratton Mountain -- before she was let loose on the slope's quickest runs.
Willis says the mental fortitude of his apprentice was unlike any he has come across before. "Mallory is by far the best student I've ever had," he said. "She's just a natural athlete. She's amazing and has the right attitude to go far.
"We were already on the top of the mountain on her second day of skiing. I think besides being physically in shape, mentality is the most important thing. Mallory's approach to it has helped her get the hang of it really quickly.
"She's absolutely amazing; I could only hope to be as dedicated as she is. She's the sort of person that if you put a barrier in front of her she'll go and smash it down. I think if people watch her and see what she does it can be an amazing motivator for them."
Weggemann does not just accept her position as a role model, she embraces it.
"I had a lot of people tell me about things I would never do again," she explained. "It was one of those moments when I realized the only person who can put restrictions on me is me.