JEONGSEON, Gangwon-do, South Korea—-The Jeongseon Alpine center was abuzz on the first day of para snowboarding at the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics in South Korea. The sun and crowds were out to witness the top snowboard para athletes from around the globe. The conditions seemed favorable for a great first day of boarding on the slopes. Very little wind, sunny and relatively warm. The stands had a swarm of American spectators out to cheer the US athletes complete with flags, face paint, print outs and loud cheers.
Para snowboarding was first introduced in Sochi 2014 with one discipline – Snowboard Cross. This year in PyeongChang the sport has increased to 10 medal events with Snowboard cross (head to head) and the addition of Banked Slalom. Snowboarding is a relatively nascent sport in Korea but has already gained popularity in just a few years.
Team USA are top contenders this year in PyeongChang and they lived up to their reputation to win home 6 scorching medals for the country. Mike Shultz (St. Cloud, Minnesota) flag bearer for Team USA won gold in SB-LL1 and said “Everything is falling into place. Today my qualifying run was a little rough so I got shuffled back in the brackets but I was able to refocus and just put the hammer down and keep winning through and finally winning gold.” Brenna Huckaby (Salt Lake City, Utah) also made her Paralympic debut in PyeongChang and also won gold in the SB-LL1 category for women. Talk about conquering your first Paralympics in style – with gold.
In the finals it was the two American women Brenna Huckaby and Amy Purdy riding down neck to neck. Amy Purdy co founder of Adaptive Action Sports was radiant with pride after her silver medal win.
“I’m so glad to represent the possibility because that’s what its all about for adaptive sports.”-Amy Purdy
Keith Gabel was thrilled to secure a silver medal and is excited for the Banked slalom course ahead. Mike Minor was gunning it through qualification runs and quarter finals in the SB-UL category but had a misfortune fall during the semi finals yet still managed a bronze medal. Noah Elliot also won a much deserved bronze in the SB-LL1 category. Evan Strong was out there to defend his Sochi gold title but it just wasn’t his day. He said he hit a hole in the snow and it balanced him off course.
It was an action packed first day of snowboarding in PyeongChang with all the drama, drive, competition and triumph that a sport can offer. Banked Slalom up ahead will be just as adrenaline pumped we predict.