Minor’s gold: Frisco resident Mike Minor wins Paralympic snowboard gold in banked slalom; Purdy rallies for bronze

What a week it’s been at the Paralympics for Frisco resident Mike Minor.

Earlier this week, Minor was momentarily devastated after a semifinal wreck in his Paralympic division’s snowboard cross race.

“I was lying upside-down staring at the stadium from turn 10,” Minor said earlier this week. “My helmet smashed, goggle lenses nowhere to be found. Tears filled my eyes as I tried to gather myself and things on the hill.”

Just a few days later, not only is Minor a bronze medalist, but he’s a gold medalist as well.

“It hasn’t set in yet,” Minor said of his win Friday morning in the debut para-snowboard banked slalom event. “It will definitely take a little bit, but I feel amazing. I’m just proud of my performance and am really happy that I was able to hold it all together when it mattered most.”

Minor recovered to win that snowboard cross bronze medal earlier in the week — flipping with joy en route to the finish line. And on Friday morning in South Korea, Minor sped through the pressure-packed run of his life to win that para-snowboard banked slalom gold medal in the upper limb division.

The Pennsylvania native Minor won the gold medal on his third and final run, crossing the finish line with a time of 50.77. It was more than a second faster than Austrian Patrick Mayrhofer’s time of 51.96 that led after the second of the three runs. Mayrhofer’s third run time ended up more than a half second behind Minor’s mark.

“Everyone always wants a medal,” Minor said, “but it’s also about reminding ourselves why we started this. We didn’t start this for medals; we started this because we love what we do and that’s the most important thing.”

Minor, who was born missing his right forearm, was also in command of the competition after the first round of runs, posting a time of 53.29 out of the gate. That was the fastest of anyone in the competition until Mayrhofer and Minor’s good friend, Simon Patmore of Australia, bested it on run 2. Mayrhofer ended up with the silver medal, Patmore the bronze.

Before the banked slalom event, Minor compared the competition to his other passion: skateboarding. The Paralympian compares the sport, with its distinct snow-covered banked course, to a combination of skateboarding and surfing with a little bit of the elements of slalom skiing also mixed in.

A former Leadville resident of four years before he moved to Frisco this past yer, Minor helped to build the Huck Finn skatepark in Leadville, welding the same rails he’s since shredded on.

“Colorado has some of the best skate parks I’ve ever been able to ride,” Minor said.

Purdy wins banked slalom bronze

The United States’ Brenna Huckaby won gold again while her teammate and Minor’s fellow Summit County resident Amy Purdy took a silver of her own in the banked slalom.

Huckaby and Purdy competed in the debut Women’s Banked Slalom – Lower Limb 1 event at a Paralympics. Huckaby won her second goal of these games by posting a second run time of 56.17 seconds. The time down the course was nearly four seconds better than any other competitor entering the third and final round, though the time of 56.53 by French silver medalist Cecile Hernandez nearly bested Huckaby in the end.

The Silverthorne resident Purdy posted her best time of 1:05.40 on her third and final run, an improvement from her first two runs that bumped her up and over her U.S. teammate Nicole Roundy for the bronze medal by just over a half-second.

“It’s just amazing,” Purdy said. “There’s a much bigger picture here of thinking you can’t do something because you have a prosthetic leg or have injuries and pulling it together and making it happen, committing and going for it to see what the possibilities are. I look back to when I lost both my legs and just wanting to snowboard again. I certainly wouldn’t have known that I’d come here and win the medals that I have. I’m grateful that I’m able to share that with other people and that they can maybe look at what we do and say ‘hey, if they can do that then I can do that as well.’ There’s a bigger picture here than just the medal itself.”

In total, at this year’s Pyeongchang Paralympic Games, the United States has taken home — as of Friday evening — 30 total medals, including 11 golds and 12 silvers. Team USA’s overall, gold and silver hauls are all highest among any nations competing at the Paralympics.

The expanded para-snowboard program at Pyeongchang has paced the country’s success this year more than any other sport, thanks to 13 overall medals in snowboarding events. That includes Minor’s gold and bronze and Purdy’s silver and bronze. The medal haul for U.S. Ski & Snowboard comes in a year where para-snowboard saw the number of Paralympic competitions balloon from two competitions to 10.

“I’m not just extremely proud for Team USA, but I’m extremely proud for my sport,” said 2014 para-snowboard cross gold medalist Evan Strong, who also added a banked slalom bronze medal at this year’s games. “Seeing from the humble beginnings that it started to where it is now and how popular it is, the level of riding it’s at and the next generation that has come up since I’ve been racing (makes me believe) the sport is in good hands. It’s not going anywhere. This is awesome and so much fun and I’m excited about it.”

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