From tragic accident to Paralympic glory: Silverthorne’s Garrett Geros focuses on the process of improvement after life-changing injury
Summit County snowboard cross phenom opens up about his grind from leg amputation to podium finish
Six years ago Silverthorne’s Garrett Geros’ life forever changed in a matter of seconds. The then-16-year-old was living in his hometown of Cartersville, Georgia, when he fell asleep at the wheel and went barreling off the side of the road.
The scene from the crash can be described as nothing short of graphic. Geros’ white truck rested partially wrapped around a tree with a mangled mess of metal, plastic and glass. The cab of the truck was barely recognizable from the passenger side of the car after being completely smashed in on itself upon impact.
Geros’ accident was immediately classified as life threatening. First responders arrived at the scene of the crash and made the difficult decision to amputate his left leg on site.
“I nearly died, and they were trying to save my life and everything,” Geros recalled. “They did save my life — which is great — but they couldn’t save my left leg.”
In addition to losing his left leg below the knee, Geros also broke his right femur, tibia, fibula and ankle. He also tore his meniscus. If that wasn’t enough for a young, athletic teenager to process, Geros thought he was paralyzed once he arrived at the hospital.
“That made it a lot easier for the doctors to tell me I was only missing my leg,” Geros said as he recalled doctors telling him he wasn’t paralyzed. “At first it kind of shocked me. I was like, ‘Woah. What do I do next? I don’t know how to live beyond that.’”
With a different lifestyle ahead of him, Geros said he faced depression in the immediate aftermath of the injury.
“It was new to me, and it sucked,” Geros said. “I slowly started researching what to do next.”
Through research, Geros slowly came to grips with living the rest of his life without his left leg. For about nine months, Geros remained in a wheelchair because of the injuries he sustained to his right leg and then began the process of relearning how to walk.
“It took me a little longer to be able to walk,” Geros said. “But after I got my leg and I was up and out of my wheelchair, it took maybe a couple weeks to a month of learning how to walk and for the pain to go away from walking. In a year and a half, I was actually running, so it came pretty quick and easy to me.”
After regaining his mobility, Geros felt inspired to do something with his disability. Geros researched Paralympic sports and was drawn to snowboarding because of trips he would take with his father prior to his accident.
“Growing up, my dad took me a couple times out on vacation to different mountains to snowboard,” Geros said. “I immediately fell in love with it. I loved snowboarding. It was a treat to go on vacation. I saw snowboarding is in the (Paralympic) games and decided I was going to give it a try.”
From that moment on, a new purpose and drive was instilled upon Geros. Once connected with Amy Purdy and Daniel Gale at Summit’s Adaptive Action Sports, Geros took it upon himself to become the best athlete he could be in the world of adaptive snowboarding.
Geros said snowboarding to the level of his competitors did not come to him right away. Instead, Geros put in hours and hours of work over his first year as an adaptive snowboard cross and banked slalom athlete.
“The first year was hard,” Geros said. “I got dead last in my first world cup. It was a little bit discouraging, but my coach — Daniel — said that it took time and it is a process. I believed that.”
With a belief from those around him and a belief in himself, Geros started putting in work at the gym six days a week in order to improve upon his snowboarding abilities.
“When I was 16, I took it day by day,” Geros said. “What can I do today and now what is tomorrow? Take it one day at a time because if you look too far ahead you will get overwhelmed and discouraged. You may not reach those goals, so you have to focus one day at a time so you can reach those goals.”
The hard work resulted in Geros rapidly improving over his first year as an adaptive athlete and eventually making the 2022 Winter Paralympic U.S. team, nearly six years after his accident.
At the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, Geros moved towards the top of the competition and rode away with a silver medal in the men’s lower limb 2 classification of the snowboard cross competition.
“It was crazy,” Geros said. “I didn’t really believe I could podium at the games at the beginning of the year.”
Standing on the award’s podium with his silver medal in hand and the U.S. national anthem blaring, Geros looked out in front of him and thought back on all the physical and mental battles he fought through since he was 16-years-old.
“Being able to stand on that podium in front of the world and holding that medal — there was a sense of relief after seeing all those years of hard work finally pay off,” Geros said.
Geros says he has now put the silver medal performance at the 2022 Paralympic Games behind him and is focused on the process of a new, four-year Paralympic cycle.
“I enjoyed the process of getting that silver medal more than getting the silver medal itself,” Geros said. “As long as you focus on the process and enjoy it, it is going to make that goal you reach even better when you get there.”
Geros has not notched a podium finish this year quite yet but has finished fourth in two races including at the 2023 Para Snowboard World Cup event at Pyha Ski Resort in Finland.
Geros will compete again in Cortina, Italy — the site of the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games — from Feb. 7-9.
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