“For me, getting out and riding with my friends is just as good as riding the championships or the Games. It’s just as great a feeling. It’s freedom, there are no worries when you are on your snowboard, you don’t think about anything, you just ride.”
Mike Minor may be a reigning Paralympic and world snowboard champion but it is driving change not collecting accolades that motivates this man.
“I am just here to give a message to anyone who is trying to achieve anything in life: just strive for your goals,” Minor says, ahead of starting his 2018/19 season at the Pyha World Cup in Finland on Thursday (30 November).
“Changing the game can mean a ton of different things; it doesn’t have to be beating everyone who is in the field or having the fastest times. When my career is over I want people to say that I helped change them.”
In March, Minor will return to Pyha for the World Para Snowboard Championships seeking to defend the snowboard-cross title he won in 2017 and to add a banked slalom gold to the Paralympic title he won in the same event at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games. And while he is totally focused on doing just that, the secret of maintaining such success appears to lie in his finely tuned sense of perspective.
“For me, getting out and riding with my friends is just as good as riding the championships or the Games,” Minor explains. “It’s just as great a feeling. It’s freedom, there are no worries when you are on your snowboard, you don’t think about anything, you just ride.”
The boarder, who also picked up a snowboard-cross bronze medal at PyeongChang 2018, credits a lifelong grounding in skateboarding for establishing such an enviable outlook.
“Skateboarding has always been a passion, it is what started me and it’s what keeps me going,” says Minor. “It taught me to strive for what you want. You fall, you can’t get the trick but you battle it out and finally you get it. Skateboarding teaches you perseverance and determination and I think that is a key factor in what we as Para athletes do.”
The sport also plays a critical role in getting Minor’s body ready to handle the rigours of a full snowboarding World Cup season. In summer 2018 he and his Finnish girlfriend spent two months “skating non-stop” in her homeland. The Paralympic champion’s obsession with ‘snowboarding on wheels’ has led to the first in a long line of nicknames.
“I get called Bowl Troll because of living in all the bowls like a troll,” Minor laughs. “Actually there is even a huge troll statue in Breckenridge (his local ski resort in Colorado). They were talking about tearing it down recently but we managed to save it and now it’s getting moved to a new spot – I told the artist in an email I supported him on it and signed off ‘Bowl Troll’.”
A ball of irrepressible energy, Minor balances a full life with his sporting excellence. He works full-time for a home management firm in the USA, often spending tough days building decks for clients. Thankfully, he has an understanding boss.
“He used to be a professional snowboarder himself so he understands the lifestyle,” Minor says with a smile. “He’s awesome. We work around my travel schedule.”
Minor, who is in the market for a house himself, acknowledges that he has a “ton of things going on”. But after a little while in his company, you quickly understand that this is how he likes it. Amusingly, it too has led to another nickname.
“I get called Squirrel because of my attention span,” Minor laughs again. “My coach Pat Holland gave me that one. He said I reminded him of the squirrel from the movie Over the Hedge. I got it (Squirrel) engraved on the side of my Paralympic ring (a ring given to all USA Paralympians by Team USA).”
But for the next couple of months, Minor is adamant his focus will firmly be on stacking up his medal collection and that should be enough to worry all his competitors.