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.”