Garrett Geros celebrates after winning silver in snowboardcross in Beijing. (Photo: Team USA)
Snowboarder Garrett Geros was at the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, he said, as “one of the biggest underdogs.” Until the final round of the snowboardcross event, “I was just happy to be there,” he said.
Then he dropped onto the course and emerged a silver medalist.
Geros, now 22, was 16 when he lost his left leg in a car crash. He was a three-sport athlete at Cartersville High School in Georgia at the time, playing football, wrestling and running track.
“Wrestling is my all-time favorite sport,” he said. “I probably love it just as much as snowboarding.”
He credits the wrestling coach who worked with him from seventh grade through high school with helping him fall in love with the sport.
While Geros resumed wrestling his senior year after missing the previous season recovering from his injury, he was no longer in contention for a college scholarship in the sport despite making it to the state championship. But returning to the sport, he said, gave him confidence to continue his athletic career, albeit in a different direction.
His dad had taught Geros to snowboard at age 7 while on a vacation to Colorado. Geros continued to snowboard on subsequent vacations but estimates he only spent “about 20 days on snow” over the next decade.
Still, he loved the way he felt on a board.
“There’s something about snowboarding that I fell in love with, and that I’ll always carry with me,” Geros said. “I just feel free and all my problems disappear.”
Geros had worked through depression and anxiety, he said, after losing his leg.
“I wanted to get out of that state,” he said.
After hearing that Geros wanted to try snowboarding as a Para athlete, his pediatric prosthetics orthotist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Richard Welling, introduced him to Amy Purdy. Purdy is a two-time Paralympic snowboarding medalist and the co-founder, with her husband, Daniel Gale, of Adaptive Action Sports, an organization that trains Para snowboarders and skateboarders.
Geros was still a high school senior the first season he trained with Adaptive Action Sports. Four years later, he was competing in the Paralympic snowboardcross final in Beijing. Geros had been aware of the Paralympics before his injury but still said he was “surprised by the level of riding” he encountered once he began seriously training. Geros said he was motivated, not discouraged, by going from high school competition to international elite competition.
“I feel like going straight into that high level, it makes people realize the level they need to be at, and it pushes them and really motivates them,” he said.
“I went from traveling around Georgia (with his high school teams) to not just traveling around the United States but around the world,” he said. “I went from two-hour bus rides to 13-hour flights, seeing different parts of the world.”
Soon Geros was training 30 hours a week. He was not an overnight success.
“I started out my career getting pulled from races, not being able to stand up runs down the course and being dead last in a lot of world cups,” he said. “But I saw the work I needed to put in.”
He qualified for the national Para snowboarding team in 2019, one of the youngest athletes to do so. During the pandemic, he wakeboarded near his family’s home in Georgia to stay competitive.
Initially he had no goals of medaling at the Paralympics.
“I just wanted to make it there,” he said.
Geros was named to the U.S. Paralympic team in February after accumulating the second-highest point total on the world cup circuit, behind Australia’s Ben Tudhope.
Geros was in fourth place after his first preliminary run in the snowboardcross in Beijing. His second preliminary run pushed him into second and through to the final. Until that point, he said, he had felt no pressure in Beijing.
But, Geros said, he competes best under pressure. He rose to the occasion.
During the final, Geros maneuvered past Sun Qi of China and into silver position behind Matti Suur-Hamari of Finland, maintaining it through the finish line. Tudhope took bronze while Sun finished fourth.
Geros will continue to compete for the next four years, he said, with an eye on the 2026 Paralympics in Italy. In the meantime, he also hopes to go into public speaking.
“I want to share my story to get more people into the sport, to show people that they can do a lot of stuff with a bad situation,” he said.
He aspires to set an example for other athletes who might find themselves in the same situation he experienced after his accident.
“Just because something bad happens in your life doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing because you can make something great out of a bad moment.”
As far as his goals for 2026, he only has one in mind.
“I want a gold medal around my neck,” he said.