Brenna Huckaby Wins Back-To-Back Paralympic Golds In Banked Slalom
by Katie Grunik
Brenna Huckaby celebrates winning the Women's Banked Slalom Snowboard SB-LL2 at the Winter Paralympic Games Beijing 2022 on March 11, 2022 in Beijing, China.
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Brenna Huckaby captured Team USA’s first snowboarding gold medal of the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Friday at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China.
Under an overcast sky, Huckaby threw down a fast 1:17:28 on run two to win gold. Team China’s Geng Yanhong and Li Tiantian won silver and bronze in 1:17:38 and 1:17:46, respectively. American Brittani Coury placed ninth after sustaining an injury in practice earlier this week. Katlyn Maddry did not start due to injury.
Huckaby was in second place headed into heat two and still needed to make up time at the halfway point of her second run. She flew through the bottom section to finish 0.1 ahead of the Chinese athletes, enough to win her the gold medal.
“There were a couple mistakes, but I know that bottom section is where I shine,” Huckaby said. “So I was like, if I can just lease it and put my edge on hold and keep it together. I knew that I could do pretty well so that's what I did.”
The 26-year-old mother of two’s training in the leadup to Beijing has been playing a game of catch-up. She gave birth to her second daughter Sloan just before the pandemic, so access to training time and facilities was a struggle.
“Before this season, I didn't have a whole lot of training,” Huckaby said. “I didn't have a lot of time on snow. I didn't have a lot of time in the gym. For this year, I have just put everything I have in my training. I'm in the gym every single day. I'm on snow almost every single day. It's obviously paid off.”
Huckaby won medals in both her Beijing 2022 events with gold in banked slalom and bronze in snowboardcross. She said she wouldn’t be competing and winning in the Winter Paralympics without the support of everyone in her life. Huckaby paid tribute to her late grandparents in her banked slalom race.
“I have gold butterflies on my fingernails because we remember my grandma who passed away last year with butterflies,” Huckaby said. “And my grandpa passed away about two years ago. We remember him by an eagle in these little temporary tattoos. So I have my grandpa my wrist and my grandma on my fingertips.”
While she celebrated her individual success on Friday, Huckaby also acknowledged the growth women’s snowboarding has seen since it first joined the Paralympic program at the Winter Paralympic Games Sochi 2014. She hopes the excitement from Beijing 2022 continues to push the sport forward.
“As long as we keep showing up and having more representation, people are going to be excited about it,” Huckaby said. “And we freaking killed it out there. The women killed it. It was exciting every single day, and I think that’s where people are going see that growth.”
Noah Elliott competes in the Men's Banked Slalom Snowboard SB-LL1 at the Winter Paralympic Games Beijing 2022 on March 11, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Team USA’s men competed in banked slalom across three classifications: SB-UL, SB-LL1, SB-LL2.
In SB-LL2, Evan Strong finished fifth, Keith Gabel finished seventh, and Zach Miller placed 15th.
Mike Minor, the defending gold medalist in SB-UL, finished 8th with compatriot Michael Spivey in 15th. Spivey, a two-time Paralympian, said he’s enjoyed his second trip to the Paralympic Winter Games.
“It’s awesome,” Spivey said. “I’ve gotten to experience more and notice more. The first time you’re just in awe. The second time you get to take it in more, and it feels a lot better.”
In SB-LL1, Team USA’s Noah Elliot posted the top result for the American men, finishing fourth and just 0.03 seconds off the podium. Teammate Mike Schultz, already a Beijing 2022 silver medalist in snowboardcross, followed 0.02 seconds behind for fifth. Tyler Burdick finished in 14th.
Reflecting on the two days of Paralympic finals, Schultz said he wants fans to remember how hard Team USA has worked at these Games.
“We're performing very well under pressure and that's all you can ask for," Schultz said. “I'm pumped for all my teammates. It's such a blast traveling the world with these guys and girls.”
Schultz, who owns the company BioDapt that engineered many of the snowboard racing prosthetics used across the countries in the Paralympic Winter Games, said he isn’t worried about the future of Para snowboarding for Team USA after seeing the next generation compete in Beijing.
“It's in good hands,” Schultz said. “These guys are flying. I don't know how much longer I can hang with them there. They go full throttle.”
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022? Visit www.teamusa.org/beijing-2022-paralympic-games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.
Katie Grunik is a digital content creator for TeamUSA.org. She is covering her second Olympic & Paralympic Games for teamusa.org and currently serves as the digital content coordinator for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.