AMERICAN snowboarder Brenna Huckaby came away from the 2018 Winter Games with two gold medals. A double success that cements the 22-year-old’s place as one of America’s most talented and inspirational young athletes.
Huckaby, also a 3-time World Championship gold medalist, took time out of her extremely busy post-PyeongChang schedule to chat with Close-up Culture about her first Paralympic Games, spending time with family and being a role model.
Q: You came away from PyeongChang with the immense achievement of two Paralympic gold medals. Can you tell us about your experience at the games from a competitive standpoint?
A: THE games are not like any competition. The media, the pressure, the crowd – it was all new to me. Usually at competitions we have pressure, but for some reason the desire to have a medal at the games is so much greater.
I thought I had visualized and prepared for the games but oh my, it was way harder than I expected. The nerves definitely got the better of me. I actually had two panic attacks while I was competing. You just cannot prepare for all the attention. Unfortunately my nerves got the better of me and I fell in both my training and qualifying runs. Luckily I was fast enough to compete in the heats and pull myself together to work my way back to a gold medal.
I had to separate the fact that I was competing at the games from my snowboarding. I had to remember I was snowboarding for my love of the sport and for my daughter. That is what pulled me together to win my gold medals.
Q: What did you make of the games as a whole?
A: THE people of Korea. I did not meet a single person who was not nice or not accommodating. I really cannot speak enough on how amazingly nice the volunteers and general public were. Such a heart-warming environment.
Q: Snowboarding is such an exciting sport of precision, danger and flair. What do you love about the sport and what makes it such a good fit for you?
A: I LOVE snowboarding because it gives me a sense of freedom. When I am riding no one sees me as the “girl with one leg”. I am just me and I love that.
Q: I believe some of your family travelled to South Korea to support you. How important have they been to your success?
Q: MY family and my fiancé’s family are the reason I am able to snowboard competitively. They watch daughter Lilah when I am away and help when we are home.
Having them in Korea was amazing. My medal would not have been possible without all the people standing behind me.
Q: I also saw you had the chance to spend some time with your fiancé Tristan in Japan after the games. What did you get up to and how was your experience of Asia?
A: I LOVED Japan. It was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the people were hospitable.
We went to Rusutsu to go snowboarding which was so much fun! The mountains were perfect and we caught the weather at a nice time. In Tokyo we caught the cherry blossom in full bloom which was super gorgeous.
Q: Close-up Culture spoke to the Dufour-Lapointe sisters last month and they talked about the importance of young women feeling fearless and independent. What would be your message be to young women, especially those going through hardship?
A: I WANT to tell young women that no matter what, it is important to keep your head held high. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
Nothing is impossible if you work hard enough and always aim to be the best version of yourself. I think it is important to know. Just because you do not see it in the media, it does not mean it is not beautiful.
Break barriers in everyday life and just go for it!