U.S. Paralympics Sno... Features Huckaby, Schultz lea...

Huckaby, Schultz lead Team USA snowboardcross world championship medal haul

By Kristen Gowdy | Jan. 21, 2022, 11:40 a.m. (ET)

Brenna Huckaby on the snowboardcross podium in Lillehammer. (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY – Already medalists at the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships, Paralympic champions Brenna Huckaby (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and Mike Schultz (St. Cloud, Minnesota) each raced their way to a silver medal to lead Team USA’s four-medal day in the snowboardcross competition. Two-time Paralympic medalist Evan Strong (Haiku, Hawaii) represented Team USA on the men’s SB-LL2 podium with a bronze, and Paralympian Tyler Burdick (Salt Lake City, Utah) earned the first world championship podium of his career, finishing with the bronze in the men’s SB-LL1 competition. 

Both two-time Paralympic medalists, Huckaby, a four-time world champion, earned her sixth career world championship podium, while Schultz brought home the third world championships medal of his career. 

“It was a good day for USA,” Schultz said. “The course was running super fast, faster than it was in training yesterday, so it made for some exciting racing. My teammates just killed it. I’m definitely pumped with a silver today.”

In a tightly contested men’s SB-LL1 competition, Schultz and Burdick advanced through the quarter and semifinals to set up a final that also featured Canadian Tyler Turner and Chris Vos of the Netherlands. Schultz and Turner battled for the gold medal in the final, with Turner edging Schultz in the final moments of the heat by just 1.56 seconds. Meanwhile, Burdick, who was in fourth for most of the run, took advantage of a Vos mistake in the last few turns and surged ahead for the bronze. 

Burdick, who made his Paralympic debut at the Paralympic Games Sochi 2014, is competing in his second career world championships. His previous best finish was 12th in snowboardcross at the Pyha2017 World Para Snowboard Championships. He missed qualifying for PyeongChang in 2018, but is putting together a strong showing in his first competition of the 2021-22 season.

Burdick missed the first half of the season in part because he was working to finish a bachelor’s degree and was not named to the national team. He came into Lillehammer with no expectations except to race hard.

“To podium here is overwhelming, and not anything I expected, but I’m extremely happy,” Burdick said. “This is a huge confidence builder. I’m optimistic, looking forward to the rest of the season, and going to put everything out there so that I can hopefully make the Paralympic team and go for a win in Beijing.”

World championships rookie Thomas Wilson (Rocky Mount, North Carolina) also had a strong showing in the men’s SB-LL1 race, winning the small final for a fifth-place finish. An avid surfer and swimmer, the rising star has also found a home in Para snowboarding as he looks to qualify for his first Paralympic Games. 

In the women’s SB-LL1 competition finals, Huckaby nearly defended the world title she won in snowboardcross in 2017 and was able to nab silver just .20 seconds behind winner Cecile Hernandez. Huckaby topped Hernandez earlier in the event with a win in the dual banked slalom. 

In a wild finish, Huckaby and Hernandez ran into each other and nearly fell, but were able to keep their balance and come around the final turns for a top-two finish. 

“It wasn’t my best day, but I’m pretty stoked on staying up even though we collided,” Huckaby said. “I’m excited to have another medal here. Definitely wish it could’ve been two golds, but I’m still pretty pumped.”

In even bigger news for Huckaby, it was announced yesterday that she will have a chance at another Paralympic podium in Beijing. The women’s SB-LL1 class was eliminated from the Paralympic program for not meeting the viability criteria, but a lengthy campaign and legal battle launched by Huckaby led to her inclusion in the women’s SB-LL2 field for Beijing. 

The men’s SB-LL2 competition proved just as dramatic, as Strong earned his bronze with a last-second surge to edge fourth-place finisher Alex Massie. All four racers in the final finished within a second of one another, and Strong was just .54 seconds off the gold medal pace set by Matti Suur-Hamari of Finland. 

Strong is making a comeback to the sport after taking time away following a silver-medal performance in PyeongChang. In addition to two Paralympic podiums, he also has won five career world championship medals, including gold in snowboardcross in 2012. 

Making his Lillehammer debut, two-time Paralympic medalist Keith Gabel (Ogden, Utah) advanced to the men’s SB-LL2 small final and finished in seventh overall. Americans Garrett Geros (Silverthorne, Colorado), Zach Miller (Denver, Colorado) and Joe Pleban (Fredericksburg, Virginia) qualified for the quarterfinals of the event and finished in ninth, 11th and 13th, respectively. Miller won his first career world championship title in the dual banked slalom in Lillehammer as he looks to qualify for his first Paralympic team.

In the men’s SB-UL race, Michael Spivey (Abilene, Texas) recorded an eighth-place finish after advancing to the small final. Spivey, a 2018 Paralympian, has earned two top-10 finishes in Lillehammer after taking 10th in the dual banked slalom. 

In an impressive team showing for the U.S., all 10 Americans who competed in snowboardcross qualification on Thursday advanced to at least the quarterfinals of their respective classes. Team USA will round out Para snowboard competition in Lillehammer with Saturday’s team event, a snowboardcross competition which will feature two American men’s teams chosen based on today’s results. Schultz and Strong are set to pair up, while Gabel and Burdick will make up the other U.S. team. The event 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.

For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org