Mike Schultz: The next big thing in para-snowboard?

Following the path of some of the most successful para-snowboarders of all time, who also happen to be his teammates, the USA’s Mike Schultz started his first competitive season with a bang. 10 Jan 2015 By IPC

“I have also been able to work with some of the best coaches in the sport, the guys with Adaptive Action Sports and now with the US Paralympic Snowboard National Team.”

American snowboarder Mike Schultz made an impressive competitive debut which saw him win gold at an IPC Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup in November, and he now heads to Aspen for the next races aiming to win again.

“This year is basically working on my foundation and growing my race experience,” Schultz, who races in the men’s SB-LL1 classification for athletes with a significant impairment in one leg or significant combined impairment in both legs, said.

“[I want to] do my best and just get as many races as I can under my belt and get points on the board.”

Schultz is following the same path as his teammates, who are some of the most successful para-snowboarders around – Paralympic champion Evan Strong, Sochi silver medallist Mike Shea and bronze medallist Keith Gabel. The trio swept the men’s podium at Sochi 2014, completing an historic victory at the sport’s Paralympic Games debut.

“I have been a professional athlete since 2004 (in snow-cross), so I know how to set goals, prepare, train, read racing lines and really pay attention to the details that allow me to be the best athlete I can be,” Schultz, speaking ahead of the latest World Cup at home in Aspen, said. “Since my left leg amputation in 2008 I have focused on my prosthetic components pretty much every day.

“I have also been able to work with some of the best coaches in the sport, the guys with Adaptive Action Sports and now with the US Paralympic Snowboard National Team.”

Schultz made his own indelible mark at the World Cup season opener in Landgraaf, the Netherlands, winning the first ever banked slalom.

He will compete from Monday (12 January) in Aspen, with an opportunity to enter the history books again in a new head-to-head format for snowboard-cross.

The lower-limb impairment categories have been split into two for 2014-15. Schultz will race seperately from his teammates who all compete in SB-LL2 (athletes with an impairment in one or two legs or with less activity limitation). He has the chance to dominate like his compatriots have done in recent seasons.

To begin with, Schultz will attempt to make the team for the 2015 IPC Para-Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain, from 23-28 February.

“I hit training pretty hard this summer to get ready for this season,” he said. “Right now, it’s do that best I can to get there and podium for all my races.”

Events at La Molina 2015 include banked slalom and the revised head-to-head format for snowboard-cross. Like many other riders, Schultz believes that the developments are good for the sport and will attract new athletes.

“I think it’s gonna open it up. I think with banked slalom and head-to-head it’s gonna bring that many more people out of the wood work that would not have normally competed otherwise,” he said.

“And now that there are that many more events there are more slots available for people to compete. It’ll definitely widen the sport for sure.”

The 33-year-old is focusing on doing his best on the World Cup circuit to be selected for La Molina 2015 in the hope of becoming a permanent fixture on team USA, inspired by Strong, Gabel and Shea.

“To see those guys on the TV over there [in Sochi] competing in the Paralympics for America and adaptive riders was really awesome. It definitely put it into perspective and made it easier for me to obtain my goals.”

The IPC Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup starts on Monday with the time trial format for snowboard-cross, continuing on Tuesday (13 January) with head-to-head.