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16-year-old Canadian athlete qualifies for Paralympics 18 months after traumatic accident

Inspiring 16-year-old Canadian athlete qualifies for Paralympics 18 months after traumatic accident
WATCH: Natalie Wilkie lost four fingers on her left hand in a school workshop accident 18 months ago. Now, at the age of 16, she's competing in both able-bodied and Para Nordic skiing and has just qualified for the 2018 Paralympics. Kevin Smith has more.

Natalie Wilkie grew up in Salmon Arm, B.C., loved to play musical instruments and compete in Nordic skiing.

Then 18 months ago her life changed; she lost four fingers on her left hand during a workshop accident at school.

“An absolutely devastating injury — a young child to lose her fingers in an industrial accident,” her mother, Karin Huster said.

“She was musical and she painted and of course skied and participated in sports, so we were sitting there reconsidering what she can still do and how that would change her life.”

“And Natalie proved to us that that has not stopped her from anything.”

READ MORE: Calgary’s Morgan Bird determined to be a voice for Paralympic movement in Canada

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“They’re super impressed [with] how far I’ve come,” 16-year-old Wilkie said Tuesday.

“I didn’t think I would be skiing at all after my accident, but now I’m at an international world cup race and it’s really exciting.”

Wilkie won a bronze medal in March at the able-bodied nationals, where she used an extra wrap to secure her left pole.

However, she can only use one pole when competing in Para Nordic races.

Natalie Wilkie lost four fingers on her left hand in an industrial accident 18 months ago.
Natalie Wilkie lost four fingers on her left hand in an industrial accident 18 months ago. Global News

At the Para Nordic World Cup this week in Canmore, Alta., Wilkie qualified for this winter’s Paralympic Games in South Korea.

“It was super exciting when I realized I’d qualified because it’s in like less than 100 days and it’s the Paralympics and it’s way over in South Korea so that’s going to be really fun,” Wilkie said.

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“This community can bring a real sense of belonging to a lot of people who have had accidents or traumatic experiences in their life,” Canadian Para Nordic ski team head coach, Robin McKeever said.

READ MORE: Calgary council gives 5 conditions for moving forward with Olympic bid

“I really like the Para community,” Wilkie said. “They’re super open and non-judgmental and accepting of everyone’s disabilities or injuries.”

The 2018 Paralympic Games run from March 8 to 18 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.