Mike Schultz competes at the Winter Paralympic Games Beijing 2022. (Photo: Mark Reis)
Despite what he saw as a giant leap forward in the level of competition at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, Mike Schultz still managed to come home with a snowboarding silver medal at age 40.
“Beijing was amazing,” said Schultz, who placed second in snowboardcross and now owns a gold medal and two silver medals. “I accomplished one of the goals I set out to, which (was) being on the podium. The difference at the Games this year compared to 2018 was the level of competitiveness.
“It was a very proud experience. I ended up getting the silver but was extremely happy about my performance, given the circumstances of the elevated competitiveness of all the other athletes and the challenges leading into that.”
What’s more, 26 athletes from 11 countries at the Games used prosthetic equipment produced by BioDapt, Inc., the company Schultz founded in 2010.
“That was such a rewarding thing to see,” Schultz said. “Being part of that, the progression of the sport, and helping all these other athletes perform a little bit better on equipment that we created was really awesome.
“And there’s a handful of them that actually beat me on the course. It’s kind of a double-edge sword there. But in the big picture of things, I’m so proud to be part of this program at multiple levels and seeing the success of all the other athletes knowing that I had a small part in helping to make that happen.”
After the high of the Games, Schultz returned home to his wife and daughter in St. Cloud, Minnesota. While he was excited to see his family again, he said he experienced the post-Paralympics low that many athletes have talked about.
“Right now, after getting back from the Games, I definitely feel some decompression and kind of lost my singular focus that I’ve been driven so hard to achieve,” Schultz admitted. “There’s definitely a hole in me right now, even though I’ve got endless amounts of work to be done here through my other channels.
“We have our sights set on one goal that takes four years to get to, and then you just completed that. It’s a bit of a depressive state, honestly. I know a lot of athletes struggle with it for a long time afterwards. We all just have to figure out what that next thing is, and that’s where I’m at right now. It’s a thing.”
It's not that he didn’t have a post-Paralympics plan — quite the opposite. For one, the autobiography he co-wrote with Matt Higgins, “Driven to Ride,” was published in January, so he plans to hit the road for some speaking engagements to promote the book.
“That’s one of the things that’s filling that gap right now,” he said. “It’s been fun because I never really had time to absorb what we accomplished with the finishing of the book, and now I get to share it with people.”
The process of writing the book, which covered the 10 years from the accident that resulted in the amputation of part of his left leg to the PyeongChang Games, challenged Schultz.
“When you go in that deep, it brings out a whole new set of memories that were kind of locked up,” Schultz said. “Overall, it was great. There were a couple moments there where it took us back into a darker place, but it was all worth it.”
Schultz is also diving into the next chapter with BioDapt, where he’s working on some new equipment, meeting with athletes and hoping to develop some new products for the coming years.
“I thoroughly enjoy creating things in my shop,” he said. “I’m happy I get to spend some more time in my shop and design room creating some new stuff.”
For now, Schultz has set aside any serious training. Instead, he’ll get out on his motocross bike to keep his fitness up. His six horses are getting plenty of attention, too.
“I’ve been spending a ton of time on my horses so far, just riding and enjoying that,” Schultz said. “We’ve got a lot of horses to keep in shape. They get slow and lazy, too, if we don’t use them.
Then there’s the second property he and wife Sara bought about 80 minutes away from their home in St. Cloud.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of work to do up there with building some trails and setting up a campsite, which will be used for a lot of horseback riding and mountain biking,” Schultz said.
Having just entered the fifth decade of his life, Schultz knows that he’s closer to the end of his competitive snowboarding career than he is to its start.
“These kids … they’re in the 20s, mid-20s, right now, and their performance level is continuing to (rise) … even though I increased my performance exponentially from 2018,” said Schultz, “but I’m worried I’m going to hit a plateau here, and they’re going to keep going. That brings up some reservations for me to continue. So, I’ve got a lot to process.
“I know there’s a time to where I’m not going to be competitive with the top guys anymore, and depending on when that time comes, that’ll probably be the reason why I decide to hang up my race boots and snowboard from the competition side. But I don’t know if I’m there yet.”