Preview
The United States made history at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 in more ways than one, capturing the first medals awarded in the sport’s Paralympic debut led by a stars and stripes snowboard-cross podium sweep by the American trio of Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel. Amy Purdy (Las Vegas, Nevada) captured the first U.S. medal for the women with bronze, catalyzing her rise to stardom with an appearance on the reality competition television show, Dancing with the Stars and a nationwide speaking tour with Oprah Winfrey.

With history on their side, the U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team will aim to build on their successful four-medal showing in Sochi with the addition of eight more medal events and a new discipline: banked slalom. The Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will also present athletes with the opportunity to compete in head-to-head snowboard-cross. Since 2014, the International Paralympic Committee has introduced expanded sport classes that includes the split of lower limb classes and an upper limb class.

Team USA’s newest members have wasted no time establishing themselves as medal contenders in PyeongChang. Brenna Huckaby has already won three world titles in two international seasons with the U.S. national team, rising to the top of the women’s lower limb 1 rankings. In his debut season, Mike Minor took home the overall world cup globe for banked slalom for the men’s upper limb class before winning his first world title in snowboard-cross the next year. After their early success, the two young stars are not only hungry to make their first U.S. Paralympic Team, but to take home hardware in PyeongChang.

 

Storylines

  • The Boys Are Back: The American trio of Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel will look to repeat their success from Sochi 2014 after a historic U.S. podium sweep in the sport’s debut at the Paralympic Winter Games. Strong led the sweep alongside Shea (silver) and Gabel (bronze) that marked the first time U.S. men won all three medals in any event at the Paralympic Winter Games. Since Sochi, the trio has traded world cup wins, overall titles and world championship medals with a growing international field that is sure to challenge them on for positions on the podium.
  • New Direction: The U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team will enter a new regime in the year heading into the Games led by head coach Pat Holland. Holland, who competed on the world cup tour as a member of the U.S. national team, will be assisted by two-time U.S. Olympian Graham Watanabe and former Chinese Olympic coach Chris Clark. Though this is his first venture with Paralympic snowboarding, Holland is familiar with the world stage; he competed with the national team for five years and started in 31 world cup races. The impact of the new coaching staff has already taken shape with Team USA, which brought home 10 medals from the 2017 world championships at Big White, Canada.
  • First Timers: Team USA’s newest faces have already made their presence known on the international stage, winning everything from world cups to world titles. In just their first two seasons with the U.S. national team, Mike Minor and Brenna Huckaby have found immediate success in their respective classes, picking up their first world championship gold medals and riding to the top of the world cup rankings for snowboard-cross and banked slalom. Minnesota natives Mike Schultz and Mark Mann also have their sights on making their first U.S. Paralympic Team after securing their first world championship medals this year.



Athletes To Watch
Brenna Huckaby
A competitive gymnast before losing her leg to cancer in 2010, Huckaby has rapidly risen to the top of the women’s field in Paralympic snowboarding. The Baton Rouge native won her first world title in snowboard-cross in 2015, just two months after being named to her first U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding National Team. After taking the 2016 season off to give birth to her daughter, she claimed her place back at the top, defending her world title in snowboard-cross and adding banked slalom gold at the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships in Big White, Canada.

Mike Minor
Born without a right forearm, Mike Minor began snowboarding and skateboarding at seven years old, using one to cross-train for the other and vice versa. In two international seasons with Team USA, he has made an instant impression on the sport, capturing his first banked slalom world cup globe in his first year and following that with his first world title the next year in snowboard-cross at the 2017 world championships. Minor also won banked slalom silver at the world championships in Big White, Canada.

Amy Purdy 
Amy Purdy rose to stardom after winning a bronze medal in the debut of snowboard-cross at the 2014 Winter Games. The Las Vegas native, followed up her historic performance with another, this time on the dance floor. She became the first Paralympian ever to compete on Dancing with the Stars where she finished second. She took time off from snowboarding to embark on a nationwide speaking tour with Oprah Winfrey and to release her memoir, On My Own Two Feet. The double amputee, who co-founded Adaptive Action Sports with her husband, returned to the scene after contracting a rare condition called Rhabdomyolysis in October 2016 to win a bronze medal at the 2017 world championships with just over a year before PyeongChang 2018.

Mike Schultz
Known in racing as “Monster Mike”, Schultz lives and breathes action sports. A professional able-bodied athlete in snow-cross since 2004, he found a new sport in snowboarding after suffering a severe injury in a snowmobile race that led to the amputation of his left leg above the knee. Dissatisfied at the options available, Schultz engineered his own prosthetic leg design using a patented linkage system and a mountain bike shock and went on to found his own company, BioDapt, Inc. that serves amputee athletes and wounded veterans. He is an eight-time X Games medalist, and in 2017, won his first medal with bronze in banked slalom in his world championship debut.

Evan Strong
Growing up in Maui, Evan Strong traded the sand for the snow and hasn’t looked back since. A promising skateboarder, his life changed just 10 days before his 18th birthday when he was struck by a drunk driver while riding a motorcycle in a head-on collision. After Strong’s left leg was amputated below the knee, he found any way to be active again, including picking up snowboarding. Just seven years later, Strong was standing on the top of the podium in the inaugural snowboarding competition at Sochi 2014 leading a historic U.S. podium sweep.


Qualification
National Paralympic Committees can receive a maximum of 10 male qualification slots and six female qualification slots with a total of 10 medal events being offered for snowboarding at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Exceptions may be made via the Bipartite Commission Invitation Allocation method. Each NPC can enter a maximum of three eligible athletes per medal event. Athletes can qualify for the 2018 Games through the following: the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships, World Para Snowboard World Rankings for the 2016-17 season and Bipartite Invitation Commission Allocation.


Selection
To be eligible for selection to the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Snowboard Team, an athlete must hold a valid World Para Snowboard license for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons; have achieved race points in at least one race of the 2017-18 season by Feb. 19, 2018; and be internationally classified with either a ‘confirmed’ sport class status or a ‘review’ sport class status with a review date after the 2017-18 season.

At the time of selection, an athlete must be a national of the United States, with a valid U.S. Passport that will not expire on or prior to Oct. 18, 2018, and meet the minimum standards of the International Paralympic Committee, as the international governing body for the Paralympic Winter Games and the international federation for Paralympic snowboarding.

The U.S. Paralympic Snowboard Team will be nominated to the United States Olympic Committee for the 2018 Games no later than Feb. 20, 2018.


Key Dates

2018

February 5-8

World Para Snowboard World Cup Finals (Big White, British Columbia)
Final U.S. selection event

February 19

Deadline for athletes to achieve race points in at least one race of the 2017-18 season for eligibility purposes

February 20

Nomination of the U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team to be announced