Paralympians Discuss the One-Year Anniversary of PyeongChang 2018

By Melissa Zhang | March 18, 2019, 2:55 p.m. (ET)


U.S. Paralympics reached out to several athletes, including Para snowboarder and U.S. flagbearer, Mike Schultz.

In celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, U.S. Paralympics reached out to some of the members of Team USA to see how their lives have changed since PyeongChang. Catch up with some of your favorite medal winners from PyeongChang and find out their biggest takeaways from the Games:

How has your life changed since competing at the 2018 Winter Games?

Dan Cnossen: The biggest change for me is that I am no longer in school. Shortly after the PyeongChang Winter Games, I graduated from an academic program and now that I'm back full-time with the U.S. Paralympic Nordic skiing team's training and competition calendar, I really miss the holistic satisfaction of the student-athlete lifestyle. 

Andrew Kurka: My life is much more busy, but that’s due to the increased opportunity in life. I couldn’t be more thankful for the roads that have been opened as a result of being a Paralympian. 

Brenna Huckaby: My life has changed in so many ways. The Games gave me a platform and a voice to speak out on what I believe and care about. It’s been such a positive opportunity and I can’t wait to continue this journey. 

Declan Farmer: Things slowed down quite a bit right after the Games and it was honestly kind of sad not hanging out with the team all the time, but overall, life hasn't changed too much. It has been nice to be able to spend more time at school and not have to travel all of the time. 

Kendall Gretsch: I’ve made some big changes since the Games so I can focus more on training and competing. I changed roles at my job in December and I’ll be moving into the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in March to join the paratriathlon resident team.

Mike Schultz: Things haven’t changed a whole lot other than I have an unforgettable memory and experience of the Games, and it feels pretty dang good to add Paralympic gold medalist to my title!

Noah Elliott: My life has changed in so many ways since the moment of standing on the top of the podium In Pyeongchang. Amazing opportunities, meeting so many great friends, representing Team USA in a bigger better way, and fueling a bigger better fire for me to be the best I can. 

What is your favorite memory from PyeongChang?

Dan Cnossen: My favorite memory has to do with pushing hard in the finishing stretch of the races we competed in at the PyeongChang Games. It's something special to give it all you have, expending every ounce of energy over the course of a race to cross the line exhausted, and because of its potency the memory is seared in my mind. That kind of intensity is very rare and special in life. 

Andrew Kurka: Other than winning the gold in the men’s sitting downhill event as a Para alpine skier, the food was one of my favorite aspects of PyeongChang. I loved the food and the culture in general, and definitely want to go back to experience it more when I’m not competing. 

Brenna Huckaby: My favorite memory is just being surrounded by all the athletes in the village. I was able to connect with athletes from different countries and sports. It was so fun to meet new people. Also, winning two gold medals and having my family at the bottom of the course was pretty amazing, too. 

Declan Farmer: Besides the gold medal game, I think the best memories were just hanging out with my sled hockey teammates at the village. Also, it wasn't actually in PyeongChang, but we all lived together for a couple months before the Games and that was a blast. I think that experience really helped build our camaraderie going into the Games. 

Kendall Gretsch: I was lucky enough to have a large group of family and friends come cheer me on in PyeongChang. This was the first time they were able to see me compete in person, so it was really special to be able to celebrate my medals with them in PyeongChang.

Mike Schultz: It’s hard to name just one…the best was the moment when I crossed the finish line to win gold. I’ve never had a feeling of accomplishment like that over all the years of competing.  It wasn’t so much winning that event as it was everything else that I did to make it to that point. From designing my own prosthetic leg to ride on and learning how to snowboard such a short time ago, to putting in four years of preparation for that one day of racing and performing my best on that moment when all the pressure was on. That’s what made it such an incredible moment.

Noah Elliott: My favorite memory from PyeongChang has to be standing on the top of the podium with my teammate and sharing that moment with the rest of the United States.


Looking back, what advice would you give yourself right before your first race/competition in S. Korea?

Dan Cnossen: Looking back, I would recommend thinking about the Paralympic races as a way of testing myself, to see what I am capable of. This test has nothing to do with race results; it's just a matter of how hard can I push myself in each and every race. Framing it this way, each athlete can have his/her best personal performance and be happy about his/her effort with the right mindset.

Andrew Kurka: Conserve your energy! I definitely went for it out of the gate and about three or four days into the games, I started to get tired and lose steam. I won one gold and one silver medal, but I know I could have done better. 

Brenna Huckaby: This is a part of your life, but this isn’t your entire life. I put way too much pressure on myself to perform. It was the toughest season emotionally in my career and I wish I reminded myself more that my life would go on, regardless of how I finished at the Games. 

Declan Farmer: I don't know if I would give myself any advice. Besides it turning out well, I think it's good to go into the experience unknowing and figure it out as you go along. But I had past experiences and teammates who had been to multiple Games, so that obviously helped. 

Kendall Gretsch: I don’t think I would change anything that I did before my first race. Since it was my first Paralympics, I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and focused on enjoying the experience.

Mike Schultz: I don’t think I would do anything different. I told myself to enjoy the days and moments, and that’s exactly what I did.

Noah Elliott: Looking back, the advice I would give myself right before my first competition is to have fun and compete to the best of my abilities.


What have you learned about yourself since your experience at the Winter Games?

Dan Cnossen: Since the Games, I have learned that in life, some distractions to training and racing can be a good thing. I used to think that the harder you train, to the exclusion of all else in life, the better you'll get. That may be true up to a point, but once you cross a threshold into too much physical or mental fixation with a sport, improvement diminishes. Seeking a more refined balance is now my goal. 

Andrew Kurka: I’ve learned that chasing a dream and enjoying the chase need to go together for maximum enjoyment. 

Brenna Huckaby: I’m a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for. This journey isn’t easy. There were a lot of crashes, mental battles and physical hurdles I had to get through to get to the finish line. I learned that I can handle just about anything with good faith and good people. 

Declan Farmer: I think I really learned about how much I love playing hockey and being a part of a close team. You might think you would lose some drive just because we won gold in overtime against our greatest rival, and also not having another Paralympics for four years, but I found that to not be the case. I think the combination of almost losing and my love of the game gave me a lot of fire. 

Kendall Gretsch: PyeongChang made me realize that I can be competitive at the top level in Para Nordic skiing. It’s made me even more excited to train and prepare for the next Winter Games in Beijing. I’ve started to think of myself as an athlete first and have put more of a focus on training so I can continue to compete at the top level. 

Mike Schultz: When you have the right mindset, you can accomplish anything…which sounds so much easier than it is. 

Noah Elliott: I have learned my true potential from competing at the Paralympic Winter Games, and have also discovered that anything is possible.

As we hit the year anniversary since PyeongChang, what are you up to now?

Dan Cnossen: I am still competing for the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team, and we are finishing up another great season in 2018-2019 with a world cup in Sapporo, Japan. Our team has dedicated, focused athletes and we are looking forward to building on the momentum gained from the Paralympic Winter Games 2018 in PyeongChang!

Andrew Kurka: I’m starting my own bed and breakfast in Alaska. I’m also fixing to get working on my pilot’s license and still ski racing, preparing for Beijing! 

Brenna Huckaby: I’m still snowboarding with all this fresh snow in Utah! I’m really dedicating myself to making impacts in society for people with disabilities. I am spending time with my daughter and I am planning for my wedding on June 8! I didn’t think life could be any better, but man was I wrong. I’m so lucky. 

Declan Farmer: I'm at Princeton for my junior year, so I've been busy with that and training, but I'm really just excited to play some games again. We have an exhibition series against Canada next week and then we have world championships in the Czech Republic next month. Be sure to CZECH that out in early May!  

Kendall Gretsch: The month of March is going to be busy for me. I just had my first triathlon race for the season and now I’m in Japan for the Para Nordic Skiing world cup finals. After starting one season and wrapping up another, I’ll be moving to Colorado Springs. When I get back from Japan, I’ll be moving into the Olympic Training Center to join the paratriathlon resident team with the goal of making the team for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Mike Schultz: I’m still competing with the U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding National Team just getting ready for the world championships in northern Finland and when I’m not on snow training, I’m working at my company, BioDapt, which is about ready to launch a new prosthetic foot for sport called the VF2. The overall performance at the Games with myself and all the other athletes who used our equipment is definitely helping the business! That was one of the highlights for me at the Games, seeing all these world-class athletes using the prosthetic equipment I designed and built. Awesome stuff!


Noah Elliott: A year after the Games, I am still competing and also doing speaking engagements and appearances, speaking at schools, events and colleges!