Zach Miller shows off his gold medal on the podium in Lillehammer. (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
LILLEHAMMER, Norway – Noah Elliott (St. Charles, Missouri), Brenna Huckaby (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and Zach Miller (Silverthorne, Colorado) showed why they are among the best in the world on Friday, earning gold medals on the inaugural day of Para snowboard finals at the 2021 Lillehammer World Para Snow Sports Championships.
Already a three-time world champion, Huckaby put together four consistent runs throughout the semifinals and finals to top the field in the women’s dual banked slalom LL1 competition. After taking victory over Swiss athlete Ellen Walther with two heat wins in the semis, Huckaby mounted a comeback performance in the final heat to secure the title.
After falling behind Cecile Hernandez of France in the opening heat of the final, Huckaby surged ahead in the final turns of the second heat, edging Hernandez by .29 seconds for the victory.
The two-time Paralympic champion said the win is especially meaningful to her after taking two years off to have her daughter Sloan and having limited childcare last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being able to finally show up to race, give it my all, and walk away with a win is beautiful,” she said. “I was coming into the final race from so I was really nervous about how I was going to pull ahead for a win. I just reminded myself that this race was for my girls [daughters Lilah and Sloan], and I was going to go out there and race for them.”
In one of the most competitive fields in the event, Elliott and teammate Mike Schultz (St. Cloud, Minnesota), who both already have multiple Paralympic medals under their belts, duked it out in a race that was as close as they come. Each advancing through the quarterfinals and semifinals with dominant performances, Elliott and Schultz set the stage for an all-American final.
Elliott was able to eke by his teammate to gain an advantage heading into the second heat, and never relinquished his lead in the second run, outracing Schultz by 1.67 seconds to win his first world championship title.
The silver is Schultz’s second career world championship medal. He also took silver in banked slalom in his world championship debut in 2017. He became a Paralympic champion at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 winning the snowboardcross event and taking silver in banked slalom.
Miller also secured his first world championship title in the men’s dual banked slalom LL2 competition as he seeks his first Paralympic berth. The 22-year-old has already experienced a wealth of success on the international level, earning bronze in his world championship debut at the 2019 World Para Snowboard Championships. In addition, he’s earned both gold and bronze already on this year’s world cup tour.
Miller defeated Takahito Ichikawa of Japan and Ollie Hill of Great Britain route to a matchup against Canadian Paralympian Alex Massie. Miller Massie in both heats, eventually taking the title by a margin of 1.49 seconds.
“I’m over the moon,” Miller said. “Today was a roller coaster and I’m so happy to be a world champion. The team absolutely killed it today, three titles and multiple medals, everyone went out and did their best. I am so thankful for everyone that supported me today, and those watching and supporting from home.”
Other Team USA athletes who qualified for the final rounds of the dual banked slalom competition include Paralympian in track and field Noelle Lambert (Manchester, New Hampshire), who took fourth in the women’s LL1 classification. Katlyn Maddry (Wasilla, Alaska) impressed in her world championship debut, advancing to the semifinals of the women’s LL2 race and ending with a fourth-place result.
Mike Minor (Frisco, Colorado) took fifth place in the men’s UL competition, while teammate Colby Fields (Summitt County, Colorado) followed close behind in seventh. American Michael Spivey (Abilene, Texas) just missed qualifying for the quarterfinals placing 10th overall.
In his world championship debut, Thomas Wilson (Rocky Mount, North Carolina) nabbed sixth place in the men’s LL1 race, while Tyler Burdick (Salt Lake City, Utah) took 13th in yesterday’s qualifying rounds.
Two-time Paralympian Evan Strong (Haiku, Hawaii) finished eighth in the men’s LL2 competition, while teammates Joe Pleban (Fredericksburg, Virginia) and Garrett Geros (Silverthorne, Colorado) missed the quarterfinals after finishing 10th and 12th, respectively, in yesterday’s qualifying heats.
U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding athletes return to competition on Jan. 21 with the snowboardcross . All events will be streamed live on the U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding Facebook Page. Follow U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates from Lillehammer.
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