Nikko Landeros is no stranger to standing on a podium. A member of the U.S. sled hockey team since 2008, Landeros has two Paralympic gold medals, two sled hockey world championship gold medals and one silver, and seven World Sled Hockey Challenge medals, one of which (a gold) came just last week.
On Saturday, Landeros found himself on a podium yet again, but it was far from a familiar experience. At Winter X Games Aspen, in his first-ever competition in mono skier X, Landeros raced to a silver medal.
In a stacked field, Landeros qualified for the semifinals in the sixth spot of eight with a time of 1:15.645, just two seconds behind the leader. His semifinal heat included X Games veterans Kevin Bramble and Ravi Drugan, as well as defending champion Chris Devlin-Young. Landeros was in fourth place at the top of the course, but moved into second when Drugan and Devlin-Young both crashed. Though he was now assured of a spot in the final, Landeros battled to steal a first-place finish from Bramble at the finish line. The final was a close race all the way through, with Landeros again coming from behind to secure himself a medal behind France’s Jerome Elbrycht. Bramble, a three-time Paralympian, rounded out the podium with bronze.
A former high school wrestler, Landeros lost his legs in a 2007 car accident and began riding sit-skis soon after. But he excelled in sled hockey and chose to pursue that avenue to great success. In April 2015, two-time X Games mono skier X silver medalist Brandon Adam took up sled hockey and crossed paths with Landeros. They quickly became friends, bonding over a mutual love of skiing, and began coaching each other in their respective sports. The rest is history as Landeros, who bought Adam’s used sit-ski in November, has already matched his friend’s 2015 mono skier X silver medal.
"In my eyes, I feel like I can win,” Landeros said. “I think there needs to be a new champion in this event. The world needs to see something crazy happen."