Brenna Huckaby, denied Paralympic eligibility for 2 years, highlights five-medal day for U.S.

Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics - Day 3
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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.

PARALYMPICS: Broadcast Schedule | Team USA medal count | Viewer Guide | FAQs

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.

ON HER TURF: Huckaby, Hernandez come back from exclusion to win medals

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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