Brenna Huckaby was one of the highest-profile athletes in the sport, and she lived up to the hype in her first Paralympics at PyeongChang 2018.
At 22 years old then, Huckaby claimed both women’s snowboard-cross and banked slalom SB-LL1 titles. It was a successful debut, with the gold completing her collection of world titles and World Cup crystal globes; she was also the overall crystal globe winner of the 2017-18 World Cup season.
Huckaby stormed into the Para snowboard scene at 19 years old, when she claimed a pair of World Championship medals, including gold in snowboard-cross. She missed the next season due to pregnancy but came back even stronger. Rejoining the national team’s training in August 2016, Huckaby reached the top of the podium in all but two of her World Para Snowboard events in the season.
Just a few points separated her from French rival and overall World Cup winner Cecile Hernandez. But Huckaby, at 21, positioned herself as a gold-medal favourite for PyeongChang 2018 after taking double-gold at the 2017 World Championships in Big White, Canada.
She overtook Hernandez in the snowboard-cross big final to win. The following day, she overcame a technical error in her first run of the banked slalom to clock the fastest time in her second to win another world title.
Huckaby’s first love was gymnastics. At 14 years old, she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer which resulted in the amputation of her right leg above the knee. Following a difficult year in which the teenager had to give-up gymnastics, Huckaby was invited on a rehabilitation ski trip. She wanted to snowboard because it reminded her of the beam, her most successful event, and the transition was smooth.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
She has suffered a broken hip during her career. (Athlete, 10 Feb 2018)
She received the 2017 Adaptive Athlete of the Year award from the US Ski and Snowboard Association [USSA]. (Athlete, 10 Feb 2018)
She says that after she was declared cancer-free at age 15, she struggled with her mental health. She says Para snowboard helped her recover. "It should have been the best day of my life [being declared cancer-free]. But I was struck with the realisation that the life I had fought so hard for didn't exist. I didn't have friends, hope and dreams and I didn't have gymnastics, I didn't know who I was. It left me in a deep dark depression and I saw no way out. My family sat me down and said, 'Every time you lay down on the couch suffering you're letting cancer win. We want to help you get and live a life worth fighting for'. So I started gymnastics again but I just didn't have the love that I had for it before. So I tried other sports, but nothing gave me that drive and push that gymnastics did. After I was invited on a ski trip with my hospital I decided to learn how to snowboard as it reminded me of the balance beam. I would have done anything to feel like my old self again." After being introduced to Para snowboard in 2013, at age 17 she moved with her mother from Louisiana to Utah, United States of America, to focus on the sport. "We had no idea that by the age of 22 I would a two-time Paralympic gold medallist." (CBS News YouTube channel, 09 Nov 2020; brennahuckaby.wordpress.com, 01 Jan 2020)
She posed in Sports Illustrated magazine's swimsuit edition in 2018. "It was all about body positivity and showing the world how confident and how empowered I am, and that I can be strong and I can be beautiful, and I can be powerful in snowboarding, or as a mother, or in a swimsuit on the beach for everybody to see. Regardless of what you're going through, who you are, or what your body's like, you're a force, you're awesome, you're a boss. I wanted to show anybody out there who's dealing with something that they can overcome it and I wanted to be that role model for women with disabilities. Being featured in the Sports Illustrated magazine was far more powerful than I envisioned. I shot with them so I could be the example I didn't have while going through amputation. Once Sports Illustrated came out I noticed a ton of other brands using women with disabilities in their advertising and I couldn't be more proud. We are changing the world." (pyeongchang2018.com, 08 Mar 2018; paralympic.org, 01 Feb 2019)
She gave birth to her second daughter, Sloan, in January 2020. "Having two kids has been a lot harder than having one, which was a lot harder than having none. But honestly, they're my biggest motivation. Everything I do is for them. And that makes it easy." (teamusa.org, 22 Jul 2020; theadvocate.com, 13 Aug 2017; paralympic.org, 06 Feb 2017, 29 Mar 2019; swimsuit.si.com, 26 Aug 2019; Instagram profile, 25 Jan 2020)
|Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL1||Race 1||2015-02-24||1|
|Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1||Race 1||2015-02-28||2|
|Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL1||Race 1||2017-02-04||1|
|Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1||Race 1||2017-02-07||1|
|Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL1||Final||2018-03-12||1|
|Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1||Final||2018-03-16||1|