Brenna Huckaby, Mike Schultz Lead Strong Day For Para Snowboarders At Worlds
by Stephen Kerr
Brenna Huckaby poses after finishing second in the women's SB-LL1 at the 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships on Jan. 21, 2022 in Lillehammer, Norway..
The last time the U.S. Para snowboarding team competed in the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships was on the opening day of competition a week ago.
The week off did little to slow the momentum as Brenna Huckaby and Mike Schultz raced to silver medals in their respective snowboardcross competitions Friday, while Evan Strong and Tyler Burdick each won bronze medals.
Competing in the women’s SB-LL1 class, Huckaby was just .20 seconds behind French gold medalist Cecile Hernandez. The two riders nearly collided with each other toward the finish but recovered sufficiently to make the final turns. The medal was Huckaby’s second so far in Lillehammer after previously winning the dual banked slalom.
“It wasn’t my best day, but I’m pretty stoked on staying up even though we collided,” Huckaby, a two-time Paralympic medalist in 2018, told U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding. “I’m excited to have another medal here. Definitely wish it could’ve been two golds, but I’m still pretty pumped.”
Schultz and Burdick advanced through a hotly contested men’s LL1 competition to reach the final. Burdick, a 2014 Paralympian, used a late surge to pass Dutch rider Chris Vos for third, while Schultz was on the losing end of a late battle with Canada’s Tyler Turner edging forward for the win by just 1.56 seconds. It was the second silver medal so far this world championships for Schultz, who also finished second in the dual banked slalom.
“It was a good day for USA,” Schultz, a 2018 Paralympic champion, told U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding. “The course was running super fast, faster than it was in training yesterday, so it made for some exciting racing. My teammates just killed it. I’m definitely pumped with a silver today.”
Strong, a Paralympic gold and silver medalist, is on the comeback trail in hopes of making a third Winter Games in Beijing following a break from the sport. The Hawaii native was involved in a close finish of his own in the LL2 class, barely eking into third place while also finishing just .54 seconds off the gold-medal pace set by Matti Suur-Hamari of Finland.
In his first world championships, Thomas Wilson finished in fifth place after capturing the small final in men’s LL1, while two-time Paralympic medalist Keith Gabel finished seventh in men’s LL2.
Last week, two-time Paralympic medalist Noah Elliott announced he would skip the final two races in Lillehammer due to an injury and prosthetic issues.
Team USA will complete Para snowboard competition in Lillehammer on Saturday with a snowboardcross team event featuring two American men’s teams selected based on Friday’s results. Schultz and Strong will pair up on one team, while Gabel and Burdick will make up the other U.S. team.
In Para alpine skiing competition, Team USA’s Thomas Walsh finished 10th in the men’s standing slalom Friday, while newcomer Patrick Halgren had his best showing of the championships with a 22nd-place finish. The team’s next action is the women’s slalom competition on Saturday.
The U.S. Para Nordic Ski team enjoyed a recovery day while preparing for the men’s and women’s cross-country sprint on Saturday.
Stephen Kerr is a freelance journalist and newsletter publisher based in Austin, Texas. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter @smkwriter1.