Frisco resident, Paralympic snowboarder Mike Minor reflects on bronze win, hopes for gold Thursday night
On Wednesday morning in South Korea, 2018 U.S. Paralympic snowboarder Mike Minor had two things on his day’s agenda.
One: Drive down to Seoul to pick up a replacement for his choice POC snowboarding helmet, after having smashed the original POC helmet that he brought to the Pyeongchang Paralympics during a snowboard cross semifinal fall. The spill prevented him from winning a gold or silver medal.
Two: Celebrate the bronze medal he did win — in the debut Paralympic men’s snowboard cross – upper limb division race — with his mother and sister, Kim and Mallory. To boot, the celebration was to occur at the famous Raccoon Cafe in Seoul, one of the 27-year-old Minor’s bucket list items while at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympic Games.
“I want to enjoy this last day with my family before trying to bring home a gold for everyone,” Minor said on Tuesday afternoon via phone from South Korea.
For the Frisco resident, the 2017 men’s para-snowboard cross – upper limb division world champion, this past week in South Korea has had its highs and lows. For one, Minor doesn’t mince words that his goal was to win gold in the debut Paralympic race. But due to a semifinal round spill on the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre snowboard cross course’s Turn 10, the Pennsylvania native and former Leadville resident was left gravely disappointed. Momentarily, at least.
“I was pretty crushed,” Minor said. “Heartbroken. It took me a few moments to gather my things and surroundings, and to think about the positives that led up to this.
“That’s kind of what drove me to go back to the top (of the course),” he continued, “and dig deeper and push harder for everyone around me.”
Minor indeed returned to the top of the course and raced his heart out in the bronze medal match versus Italy’s Jacopo Luchini. And this time, it was Minor that sensed an opening versus a fledging Luchini. It was an opportunity in a sliver in time that enabled him to throttle forward toward bronze.
“Right before Turn 2,” Minor said of Luchini, “he created a decent amount of gap between us, and between Turns 2 and 3, near the step-down feature, as he left a line wide on Turn 2, I got really small, took the inside line, stayed on backside of him and eventually passed him on the outside and took it over on the feature between Turns 3 and 4.”
“Pretty much right at those moments in racing you know,” Minor added, reflecting on the moment that earned him his first Paralympic medal at his first Paralympic games. “As soon as you are passing and somebody falls or messes up in certain spots on track, it’s pretty much a given if you stay on your feet from there on out, the race is yours. It was the same as my wreck in the semifinal heat.”
It wasn’t until after the race, when Minor was amongst the other podium finishers inside the corral at the bottom of the course, when it sank in for him. Minor, who was born missing his right forearm and who took up snowboarding at age seven, was now a Parlaympic bronze medalist two decades later.
“We all hugged on the ground and cried — that’s when it hit me in that moment,” Minor said. “That good friends are important in this and it’s about the memories you’ll take to the end.”
Along with Minor in that celebratory scene in the corral was his close friend Simon Patmore of Australia, the man who won gold.
“We built a bond from the start (of my career),” Minor said.
Minor’s bronze medal win at the start of the week was only half of his Paralympic itinerary. On Friday, he will also be going for a medal in the first-ever Paralympic men’s banked slalom snowboard – upper limb division competition.
The three-run, time-trial banked slalom competition is currently scheduled to take place live on Thursday here in Colorado, broadcast at 7:30 p.m. MST. The event can be seen online live at http://www.stream.nbcolympics.com/2018-paralympics-snowboarding-mens-womens-banked-slalom.
For Minor, his double-dip at his first Parlaympics comes years after doubters back in the Greater-Scranton area of Pennsylvania questioned his motives in moving to Colorado five years ago.
“I told everyone back home I was moving to Colorado to be a professional snowboarder,” Minor said, “and people told me I was crazy.”
Crazy may have been the word some from his hometown used to describe Minor’s ultimate dream then, but these days in Pyeongchang the word he is using to describe his experience is simply, “amazing.”
“Just experiencing it with my whole team,” Minor said, “being able to represent my whole country, to walk out with the flag on my chest, it was an absolutely amazing experience. Exhilarating.”
The pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremony and the pressure of competition in South Korea is half a world away from Minor’s preferred snowboarding stomping grounds of Copper Mountain, where the Adaptive Action Sports athlete says he trains more than any other location.
“Sometimes I’m out on trails doing carving drills,” Minor said, “but you’ll definitely find me park lapping.”
For Thursday evening’s (MST) banked slalom event, Minor compared the competition to his other passion, skateboarding. The Paralympian compares the sport to a combination of skateboarding and surfing with a little bit of the elements of slalom skiing mixed in.
For the former Leadville resident, his love for skateboarding helps when he’s racing the banked slalom.
“Colorado has some of the best skate parks I’ve ever been able to ride,” Minor said, “and I had the pleasure to help build the Leadville skate park for the last four years — I welded all the rails up there.”
When he returns to Summit County, Minor said he’s most excited to return to his favorite spot for grub: Kemosabe Sushi.
But for now, for this week, it’s all about enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience with friends, like South Korean Olympic freestyle skier Lee Meehyun, who was the South Korean local who helped Minor locate a replacement POC helmet.
And with family, like his mother and sister. Just them being there means the world to him.
“To me,” Minor said, “that’s worth more than any medal.”
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