- Brenna Huckaby and Mike Schultz win snowboard-cross gold in Paralympic debuts
- U.S. dominates first day of snowboarding competition at Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 with six medals (two gold, two silver, two bronze)
- Team USA finishes snowboard competition with banked slalom on Friday
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Team USA’s newest stars rose to the occasion in PyeongChang as the U.S. captured six medals on the first day of snowboard-cross competition on Monday. Four medals came from athletes making their Paralympic debut, led by Brenna Huckaby (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Mike Schultz (St. Cloud, Minnesota) who took home gold.
Athletes overcame delays and abnormally warm weather as snowboard competition opened in PyeongChang. Huckaby, the defending world champion, defeated France’s Cecile Hernandez to reach the women’s LL2 final where she reigned over U.S. teammate Amy Purdy (Silverthorne, Colorado) for the Paralympic crown. The 21-year-old is favored for double gold in PyeongChang heading into Friday’s banked slalom races.
Schultz, who led the U.S. delegation at the Opening Ceremony as the flagbearer last Friday, also battled his compatriot Noah Elliott (St. Louis, Missouri) in the men’s LL1 semifinals before cruising to his first Paralympic gold over defending world champion Chris Vos from the Netherlands. Elliott hung on in the small final to capture his first Paralympic medal with bronze.
Keith Gabel (Ogden, Utah) and Purdy both upgraded their medal from four years ago, capturing silver in the men’s LL2 and women’s LL1 classes, respectively. Gabel won his second Paralympic medal after being a part of the historic U.S. men’s podium sweep in 2014 where he took bronze. Gabel stormed through to the big final before falling to the defending world champion, Matti Suur-Hamari from Finland. Purdy saw the silver lining today, breaking through her bronze-medal streak from Sochi and the last world championships to also win her second Paralympic medal.
In the men’s UL class, Mike Minor came away with a bronze medal at his first Paralympic Winter Games. The 27-year-old and defending world champion defeated Jacopo Luchini from Italy to bring home a medal for the stars and stripes.
1st: Brenna Huckaby (Salt Lake City, Utah/women’s LL1), Mike Schultz (St. Cloud, Minn./men’s LL1)
2nd: Keith Gabel (Ogden, Utah/men’s LL2), Amy Purdy (Silverthorne, Colo./women’s LL1)
3rd: Noah Elliott (St. Louis, Mo./men’s LL1), Mike Minor (Waymart, Penn./men’s UL)
4th: Evan Strong (Maui, Hawaii/men’s LL2)
On winning her first Paralympic gold...
“I can’t put it into words. I felt so much love after I crossed the finish line and heard the cheering from the crowd. I feel relieved because I’ve worked so hard for this for so long and it paid off. It just feels really good.”
On racing U.S. teammate Amy Purdy...
“With the race with me and Amy, what was going through my mind was no matter what, USA was walking away with a gold and silver so to me, that was incredible. I didn’t care which one I had; I was just stoked for the U.S.”
On having her daughter, Lilah, watching her in PyeongChang...
“It’s incredible to have her here. In the start gate, I just said to myself ‘for Lilah’ because that’s one of the main reasons why I’m here. Pushing through trying times to show her that she can do anything that she wants and it was hard today, but I just reminded myself why I do this and that it’s for her and it helped.”
On how it feels to go from flag bearer to gold medalist…
“Everything is falling into place. It’s amazing. To be named to carry our flag for Team USA for Opening Ceremony – that’s incredible. It’s a huge honor. I’ve been on a high ever since. My qualifying run was a little rough – I went down so I got shuffled back in the brackets, but I was able to refocus, put the hammer down, just keep winning all the way through our brackets and finally come home with a gold. I couldn’t be more pumped. The harder you work for something, the better it feels when you finally succeed, and I did that today.”
On today’s performance...
“When I was standing in the start gate, I was thinking to myself that I just want to ride well, show what’s possible and do my best. I think I was able to do that, which I’m really proud about. I’m thrilled to have upgraded my bronze medal from Sochi.”
“It’s so crazy. The sport has grown so much; athletes like Brenna who are coming in and setting the bar and our sport is just amazing and taking off. I couldn’t be more proud to be here representing what we do.”
On the upcoming banked slalom event…
“I’m excited. Last year, this was a really good course for me. I missed the podium by one one-hundredth of a second and missed gold by two-tenths. It will be a really good course for me I feel like. They always put on a good show here, so I’m excited.”
On winning a medal in his Paralympic debut...
“I feel very excited and humbled to have the opportunity to be out here and with the best in the world and represent our country so that in itself is really, really cool. To come out here at my first Games and win a bronze medal with just a year of snowboarding under my belt is just icing on the cake.”
U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Medal Count: 6
Gold: Brenna Huckaby (snowboard-cross), Mike Schultz (snowboard-cross)
Silver: Keith Gabel (snowboard-cross), Amy Purdy (snowboard-cross)
Bronze: Noah Elliott (snowboard-cross), Mike Minor (snowboard-cross)
The U.S. will complete their Paralympic program with banked slalom competition on Friday, March 16 beginning at 10:30 a.m. KST/9:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday, March 15.
NBC Olympics is providing 250 hours of coverage from PyeongChang, including 94 hours on television, which is NBC Olympics’ most ever for a Paralympic Winter Games. View the complete TV and streaming schedule here.