A battle against the giants: Summit’s Zach Miller and Mike Minor win gold at Para Snowboard World Championships | SummitDaily.com

A battle against the giants: Summit’s Zach Miller and Mike Minor win gold at Para Snowboard World Championships

Zach Miller/Courtesy photo
Zach Miller runs towards Mike Minor after the duo won gold at the 2023 Para Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain. Both athletes compete for Summit's Adaptive Action Sports and won a total of four medals between the two them in Spain.
Zach Miller/Courtesy photo

For the second time in the past two years, Summit County’s Adaptive Action Sports is bringing home medals from an international competition.

In March of 2022, Silverthorne’s Garrett Geros won a silver medal in snowboard cross at the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. A little over a year later, Adaptive Action Sports athletes Zach Miller and Mike Minor are bringing home a total of four medals from the 2023 Para Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain.

Taking place from March 7-17,  Para Snowboard athletes converged in Spain to compete in dwindling snow conditions. The competition kicked off with qualifiers in snowboardcross, and both Minor and Miller easily qualifying to the final.

With Minor in the upper limb impairment final and Miller in the lower limb 2 impairment final, both looked to finish on the podium. Minor specifically was looking to defend his world championship gold medal from the 2017 world championships.

Minor competed well in the final, but he finished in fourth place overall in snowboardcross — just a place out of receiving a medal. After winning a bronze medal in snowboardcross at the 2019 world championships, Miller added another bronze medal to his world-championship resume by placing third overall in his snowboardcross final.

A few days after wrapping up snowboardcross action, Miller and Minor returned to compete in the individual dual banked slalom competition.

Minor faced Switzerland’s Aron Fahrni in the two-man final and got painfully close to becoming a world champion again after winning gold in 2017. Minor and Fahrni battled over the banked slalom course, but Fahrni just out-leaned Minor at the finish line to beat Minor by one one-thousandth of a second. 

Despite placing second, Minor was still pleased with his individual performances at the 2023 world championships.

“I felt really good,” Minor said. “I obviously wanted a world championship, but I just missed it. I felt like I rode well, and it was a good week.”

Miller also saw success in the dual slalom competition, placing second overall in the competition behind Italian rider Emanuel Perathoner. 

Miller was originally a little disappointed that he was not able to defend his dual banked slalom title from 2021, but that disappointment slowly evaporated when he found out he and Minor had a chance at winning a gold medal in the dual banked slalom team competition.

“I got silver, which was good, but I was definitely bummed about losing the individual title,” Miller said. “Then when the next day came around and it was me and Minor, I was like, ‘Alright, I can get it back.’” 

Zach Miller/Courtesy photo
Mike Minor, left, and Zach Miller pose for a photo while competing in Spain for the 2023 Para Snowboard World Championships.
Zach Miller/Courtesy photo

Since Miller and Minor both received silver medals in the individual dual banked slalom and had the highest finishes for Team USA, the two Adaptive Action Sports athletes were paired together to compete in the dual banked slalom team competition.

The duo was excited at the prospect of racing as a team and seeing if they could finish in a podium position. Miller and Minor easily navigated their way through to the final, beating out Japan, a second USA team and France before facing Italy in the final.

At this point, Miller and Minor could feel that they were at the precipice of a gold medal, but in order to secure the medal, they would need to beat a competitive Italian team made up of Perathoner and Jacopo Luchini. 

Both Italian riders are extremely skilled, and Miller likened the final matchup as a battle between David and Goliath. In the final, Miller executed the plan for the race and put a gap between him and the Italians before Minor dropped onto the course. 

Miller says he then stood at the bottom of the course waiting for what felt like ages to see the conclusion of the race.

“I had done my part, I had given Mike the lead he needed to bring home the win,” Miller said. “I was sitting there waiting for what felt like forever, and then finally I saw Mike’s head peek over the horizon. He was in the lead, and he was bringing it home. He was way out in front.”

Pumped up with joy and adrenaline by becoming world champions again — this time as a team — Miller says he started running towards Minor before he had even crossed the finish line.

“That moment was so insane,” Miller said. “It became electric. There was a lot of support because the team we were going against were the giants. The unbeatable pair. We pulled a David and Goliath and took them down. A huge dog pile happened, and that is the most excited I have been about snowboarding probably ever.”

Zach Miller/Courtesy photo
Mike Minor hugs Zach Miller after the duo won gold in the dual banked slalom competition at the 2023 World Championships.
Zach Miller/Courtesy photo

For Minor, winning another world championship gold medal was a reward for all the hard work he has been putting in over the last few years.

“I haven’t been world champion since 2017. I missed 2019, and I had COVID during 2021. So just winning in general was an amazing moment,” Minor said. “It was really cool to do my thing, which I feel so comfortable doing.”

Beyond the prospect of winning a total of four medals for Adaptive Actions Sports, Miller and Minor are excited about where they are at with another Paralympic games coming around in 2026.

“Where Mike and I are at right now is a super strong place to be three years away from the next games,” Miller said. “If we continue to keep up this work that we have both been putting in, there is no telling what is capable for us team-wise and individually.”

Miller and Minor are almost done for the 2022-23 competition season, but they have one final competition at Copper Mountain Resort for the USA Snowboard and Freeski Association nationals from March 31 to April 13.

After competing at Copper, Miller and Minor will start to turn their focus towards summer activities. Miller says he will spend time cruising on his motorcycle while staying in snowboard shape while Minor will stay busy by continuing to expand the adaptive skateboard scene.

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