Team USA's Noah Elliott (far left) and Mike Schultz (far right) pose for podium photos after medal wins in the snowboardcross SB-LL1.
LA MOLINA, SPAIN – Paralympic champions Noah Elliott (Steamboat Springs, Colorado) and Brenna Huckaby (Salt Lake City, Utah) raced their way to their first 2023 medals at the FIS Para Snowboard World Championships in Spain each earning silver in the snowboardcross competition to lead Team USA’s five-medal haul day. Two-time Paralympian Mike Schultz (St. Cloud, Minnesota) grabbed bronze alongside Elliott in the men’s SB-LL1 class while Paralympian Zach Miller (Silverthorne, Colorado) took the third-place podium finish in the men’s SB-LL2 division. Newcomer Darian Haynes (Muncie, Indiana) earned her first world championship medal in the women’s SB-UL class in her world championship debut.
In just his second worlds apperance, Elliott came back from a tough start in yesterday’s qualification round after a mishap left him in the last seeded position among the men’s LL1 division. The medal marks his first world championship podium appearance in the snowboardcross competition.
“Racing today was super challenging,” said Elliott. “The snow conditions here in La Molina have gone a little downhill. It’s more springtime conditions, slushy for sure. It was about being able to finesse everything along with your race tactics. Overall, really great day especially with missing qualifications yesterday. For me to come and still be able to do well, I was super stocked.”
Elliott alongside teammate Schultz took the first and second spots in the semifinal rounds. In the big finals, an unfortunate incident with his board caused Schultz to fall into fourth place until Japan’s Daichi Oguri hit the net to allow him a chance on the podium.
“Exciting day of racing to say the least,” said Schultz. “We’re here with 55-to-60-degree weather so it made for a really challenging course to ride fast and smooth. In the final, I dove into the inside to try and pop out in the lead but stuffed the nose of my board and went cartwheeling…It popped back up and I ended up in fourth place. Then in the second-to-last turn, Daichi ended up taking out the net so I skated right on through and finished with a bronze. I’ll take some luck any day.”
Huckaby’s perfect performance in the qualification round gave her the top ranking going into the women’s LL-1 event. On the one-year anniversary of her historical Beijing Paralympic gold medal in the banked slalom, Huckaby held a heavy lead in the day’s early heats. In the big finals, a crash led her to fall for safety before getting back on course to earn silver.
“We had a crash - there was me and another rider super close together,” said Huckaby. “One went down so I did to stay safe. It’s boardercross so another athlete came from behind and I got second. [My shoulder injury] affected my racing heavily today. I wasn’t able to push as hard as I wanted but I’m still proud of myself on how I finished.”
Three other American women made their world championship debuts alongside Huckaby in the women’s LL-1 class: Rebecca Johnston (Hood River, Oregon) took the fourth-place spot while Dennae Russell (Sturgis, South Dakota) earned fifth and Jamie Blanek (Waco, Texas) grabbed the seventh-place finish.
One day after his 24th birthday, Miller added a third world championship medal to his collection, his second career bronze in the men’s snowboardcross SB-LL2. Paralympians Keith Gabel (Ogden, Utah) and Evan Strong (Haiku, Hawaii) followed close behind with a fourth and eighth place finish respectively. Joe Pleban (Fredericksburg, Virginia) took the 14th spot.
“It’s a mixed bag out there today,” said Miller. “You had to be really careful with what you were going to try to do out there with your board. You try to turn too hard; it was just going to grab you and pull you down, so I had to be really careful and tactical. Ninety percent of what I did out today was up [mental]. For me, I’m over the moon to get an SBX podium at world championships.”
To round out the men, Paralympic champion Mike Minor (Frisco, Colorado) took the top spot for the U.S. in the men’s SB-UL class just off the podium grabbing fourth while newcomer Tyler Divilio (Happauge, New York) ended in eleventh place in his international debut.
Six Team USA athletes will return to the snowboardcross course on Sunday, March 12 for the team finals. Live results from the competition may be viewed through the FIS site available here. Follow U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates from La Molina.
Saturday, March 11 – Snowboardcross Results
Noah Elliott, men’s SB-LL1
Brenna Huckaby, women’s SB-LL1
Darian Hayes, women’s SB-UL
Zach Miller, men’s SB-LL2
Mike Schultz, men’s SB-LL1
4th - Keith Gabel, men’s SB-LL2
4th – Rebecca Johnston, women’s SB-LL1
4th- Mike Minor, men’s SB-UL
5th – Dennae Russell, women’s SB-LL1
7th – Jamie Blanek, women’s SB-LL1
8th – Evan Strong, men’s SB-LL2
11th – Tyler Divilio, men’s SB-UL
14th – Joe Pleban, men’s SB-LL2
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