Brenna Huckaby, denied Paralympic eligibility for 2 years, highlights five-medal day for U.S.
The U.S. won five more medals on the third day of the Paralympics, including its first three in snowboarding and one from a champion snowboarder who wasn’t eligible for the Games two months ago.
Mike Schultz (silver), Garrett Geros (silver) and Brenna Huckaby (bronze) all made a podium in snowboard cross.
Huckaby swept the snowboard cross and banked slalom golds in 2018 in a classification that in 2019 was taken off the Paralympic program due to a lack of riders. She applied to compete in either the corresponding men’s classification or to move into the remaining women’s classification, one with athletes with a lower level of impairment.
Para sport officials denied both requests. Huckaby appealed, and a German court ruled her eligible on Jan. 20.
“I would rather compete at a disadvantage than not compete at all,” Huckaby said on USA Network after coming back from a crash in the final to grab bronze. The rider with whom she collided, Dutchwoman Lisa Bunschoten, did not finish the four-woman final.
France’s 47-year-old Cecile Hernandez, Monday’s gold medalist, was also previously in the stricken classification and went through the German court system to gain eligibility.
Schultz, a 2018 gold medalist, took runner-up behind world champion Tyler Turner of Canada, becoming the first male snowboarder to win three Paralympic medals. Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari won his third medal minutes later in a different classification.
“I couldn’t be happier -- well, I could be just a little bit happier if I won gold, but overall, these guys were pushing me to my maximum,” said Schultz, a 40-year-old expected to compete in the banked slalom later in these Games, then take time off and decide whether to go for another Games.
Schultz was a Winter X Games snowmobile racer before a Dec. 13, 2008 race accident where he was thrown from his vehicle, resulting in the amputation of his left leg above the knee.
The Minnesota native engineered his own prosthetic design using bike shocks, a design that is also used by other Paralympians. Schultz founded his own company to serve adaptive athletes and veterans, BioDapt, and through that found snowboarding.
Geros, a 22-year-old who took up competitive Para snowboarding four years ago, earned silver in his Paralympic debut after a best finish of seventh in past world championships. He finished about the length of a snowboard behind Suur-Hamari.
“I got in a car accident when I was 16, and I shouldn’t have lived,” said Geros, whose left leg was amputated at the scene and whose right leg is now supported with pins and a titanium rod. “Just being able to walk, that is what I am thankful for. Being able to step on my snowboard every day is amazing.”
Also Monday, two U.S. cross-country skiers earned a silver medal in classic distance races: Jake Adicoff and Sydney Peterson.
The U.S. is tied for third in total medals with eight, trailing China (25) and Canada (12).
NBC Paralympic research contributed to this report.
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