U.S. Paralympics Sno... Features Mike Shea Leaves Big...

Mike Shea Leaves Big Boots To Fill In The Paralympic Snowboarding World

By Sheridan Powell | Sept. 30, 2020, 4:49 p.m. (ET)

Michael Shea competes during the Men's Para Snowboard Cross Standing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games on March 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. 

A few short months ago, Para snowboarding legend Mike Shea announced his retirement from the sport.  The two-time Paralympian was one of the “Three Amigos” who swept the podium for the U.S. during the debut of Paralympic snowboarding in 2014. 

But the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang was the last time Shea was on the snow. 

“I knew that after South Korea I was going to be changing careers,” Shea explained. “I didn’t really want to retire yet, I was going to compete part time.” 

Shea, who owns his own woodworking business, had plans to focus more on his work while continuing to train and compete internationally. But all of that changed when he contracted a virus that left him bedridden for weeks. 

“We didn’t know what it was, we went to multiple doctors, did test after test,” he said. “To this day, we still don’t know what exactly happened, but I still get very bad fatigue. After two years now of hoping I would get better, it didn’t happen. So I just decided to make the decision to retire.” 

Although not an easy decision by any means, Shea admits there was a sense of relief that came with the announcement. After almost a decade of competitions and training, Shea was battling burnout and chronic injuries that made it really difficult to continue to snowboard. 

“My mind wanted to continue, it really did,” Shea said. ‘But my body was just not feeling it.”

[The Paralympic movement] truly unifies people and gives them such incredible opportunities in ways that nothing ever has before.

Shea has loved the change of pace brought on by retirement. His schedule now allows for more family time and the ability to prioritize his work with his business that he put on the back burner years ago to pursue snowboarding. 

“When I decided to follow my dreams of being an athlete and shooting for a spot on the Paralympic team, I sold all of my tools and gave it up to chase that dream,” he explained. “After South Korea, I decided to reinvest in that business so I bought a bunch of tools and it sort of blew up over night.” 

Shea’s business - which focuses mainly on furniture and household improvements - boomed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Everyone is at home and wanting to make improvements or renovations to their house,” he laughed. “I’ve been doing a lot of furniture, entertainment centers, fireplace mantles, all sorts of stuff.” 

While his business is thriving, Shea admits that there’s already things that he misses. But for him, it’s nothing to do with snowboarding, but instead the journey with his teammates. 

“I used to see my team all winter long, for almost eight months out of the year. And that all of a sudden stopped,” he said. “That’s a really hard thing for someone who’s retiring to go through - to have all of those special relationships and then having to give them up because you’re not traveling with the team anymore.”

As one of the trailblazers in Paralympic snowboarding, Shea leaves big boots to fill. But he’s not too concerned with being remembered for his career statistics or a highlight moment. 

“Myself and a handful of other athletes, we really helped to push this sport to the pinnacle of what it is today. And now so many other people are able to benefit from that and I really just enjoy seeing how far it’s come. To be a part of that process is gratifying for me.” 

As Shea moves to watch the sport from the sidelines, he is excited to see snowboarding and the rest of the Paralympic movement continue to grow. 

“These athletes and individuals have the same dreams, they work just as hard, and are doing just as much to achieve what any Olympic athlete would. We can do just as much as so many other people in this world and hopefully the world can continue to see that in the sport and in the movement. It truly unifies people and gives them such incredible opportunities in ways that nothing ever has before.” 

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Mike Shea

US Paralympics