"I want to see my baby. But it gives me a little more drive to be there for her and to win this for her because I’m not leaving home for no reason.”
The USA’s Brenna Huckaby wore bib No. 1 – signifying the first athlete to go down the snowboard-cross course at the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships at Big White, Canada.
But when she reached the bottom and went to check her time, it was not what she expected:
“No time,” Huckaby was told.
She had to go back up and repeat her run.
Technical difficulties; nearly an hour weather delay; snowy and low-visibility conditions on that Saturday (4 February) finals —plus taking last season off due to the birth of her first child – none of that seemed to slow her down.
She still clocked the fastest result during the timed runs in the women’s SB-LL1 category.
And in a dramatic big final with France’s Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon, Huckaby managed to squeeze into the lead on one of the last turns to claim her second straight snowboard-cross world title.
Second Worlds gold but first as a mother.
“I found out I was pregnant last year in January, so I took the season off because I was pregnant,” Huckaby said. “I had her [last] May so the rebound was pretty quick ‘cause I had to start training camp with the … team around August. I didn’t have a lot to time to lose the baby weight.”
She won her first world title at the 2015 World Championships at just 19 years old.
Now 21 at Big White 2017, Huckaby showed it will take more than technical glitches, unfavourable weather conditions and personal life off the snow to hold her back.
“I definitely was thrown off by that because you come down and you lay down your run expecting your result,” she said. “When you get down here and you have no result, then you think ‘Holy cow I have to do this again?’
“At first it threw me off but I decided to take that negative energy and turn it into aggression into my course. And when I did that I think I did a more solid run my second time.”
Still trying to catch her breath after her first run, the 21-year-old let out some frustration before making her way toward the lift to repeat her run.
Although told she would still be allotted two more runs – best of two determines the head-to-head brackets – her time of 1:16.45 was fastest in her category so she did not need the second run.
But Tuesday’s (7 February) banked slalom competition will be a separate, interesting challenge.
Silver medallist from two years ago in La Molina, Spain, Huckaby is expected to again face tough competition from Hernandez-Cervellon, the reigning world champion.
Hernandez-Cervellon was two seconds slower than Huckaby’s time in snowboard-cross. And based on how close the big final was, Tuesday’s race could be even tighter.
For Huckaby, compared to La Molina 2015, she has an extra motivation to do better than runner-up in banked slalom.
“It’s an adjustment,” the new mother said. “I’m always home sick now. I want to see my baby. But it gives me a little more drive to be there for her and to win this for her because I’m not leaving home for no reason.”
Around 70 athletes from 15 countries are in Big White for the 2017 World Para SnowboardChampionships, which runs until 8 February. It is a chance for athletes to secure qualification spots for their countries at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Complete snowboard-cross results from Big White 2017 can be found at www.bigwhite2017.com
Banked slalom finals will be contested on Tuesday (7 February).
Live results will also be available at Bigwhite2017.com
Rights free pictures for editorial use are available for download at Flickr/paralympic.
The competition can also be followed on Facebook.com/ParaSnowboard, Twitter and Instagram (@ParaSnowboard).