JEONGSEON, PyeongChang—- In Sochi, The United States made history with a grand podium sweep, Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel won Gold, silver and Bronze while Amy Purdy, the only female double amputee to compete in the sport, took Bronze. After such a remarkable start the expectations are high for Team USA in PyeongChang.
Para Snowboard made its Paralympic debut at the 2014 Sochi games. Four years ago there were only two medal events – men’s and women’s snowboard cross. This year there will be a total of 10 medal events. The disciplines include snowboard cross and the addition of Banked Slalom which consists of 3 runs and the best time will determine the order of the final run. Unlike snowboard cross there will be one rider on the course at a time. And the course usually has plenty of variations and is in the form of a U-shaped valley. Athletes will compete in three classes with SB-LL1 having the most severe impairment, SB-LL2 having not as much lower limb impairment and SB- UL those with missing Upper Limbs.
Already in the first Para Snowboarding event in PyeongChang – Snowboard Cross, Team USA racked up 6 medals! Brenna Huckaby and Mike Shultz both triumphed with Gold medals. Keith Gabel and Amy Purdy won silver medals in their categories and Mike Minor and Noah Elliot came in third with Bronze. On the 16th of March para snowboarding will have its second event at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in South Korea. Here are some of the athletes to watch out for in Para snowboarding Banked Slalom.
Mike Shea is looking to win some medals this year after winning silver at Sochi. When asked about how he felt about competing with Team USA he said “The American team is very unique because we all want to progress the sport as a whole beyond just winning medals”. Mike Shultz the flag bearer for Team USA at the opening ceremony is an excellent example of this spirit, since his company ‘Biodapt’` created the prosthetics that TeamUSA is competing on. Amy Purdy co-founded Adaptive Action Sports and actively campaigned for para snowboarding inclusion in the Paralympics. She has already won Bronze in Sochi and Silver in the Snowboard cross in PyeongChang.
Two young and ready competitors made their Paralympic debut in PyeongChang. Brenna Huckaby started snowboarding in 2013, had a baby in 2016, won two golds at the World Cup Finals in 2017 and already won her first gold at PyeongChang 2018. She was also Americas ´Athlete of the Month´ for February 2018 and has wasted no time in establishing her presence on the world para snowboarding stage. In PyeongChang Mike Minor was leading the pack in Snowboard cross but had a few slips and starts. Yet, he won Bronze in snowboard cross and will be looking to win big in Banked Slalom. Mike Minor holds the top world rank in snowboard cross in the SB-UL category.
Evan Strong who won Gold at Sochi will be fast and furious in the Banked Slalom in the SB-LL2 category in PyeongChang. He was disappointed with his performance in Snowboard Cross after hitting a hole and not making it to the podium. Keith Gabel, Sochi bronze medalist and silver medalist in Snowboard Cross said he was super stoked for race day.
Team USA’S Para Snowboarding Team is passionately advancing the sport one medal and innovation at a time. As they go up against each other and other world athletes this team is full of Trail Blazers. In many ways Para snowboarding wouldn’t be where it is without Team USA’s incredible athletes. Watch out for them. There is history in the making coming up.