If there’s one thing that can top carrying the U.S. flag in an Olympics Opening Ceremony, it’s winning a gold medal — on an artificial knee that you invented.
Mike Schultz of St. Cloud pulled off that unlikely trifecta on Monday, taking the gold in snowboard cross at the Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after carrying the ceremonial flag last week.
Fighting back from an early fall, “Monster Mike” knocked off the competition one by one, finishing his gold-medal run by defeating reigning world champion Chris Vos of the Netherlands.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Schultz said in a statement released by U.S. Paralympics. “It’s definitely still sinking in a little bit here.”
It hadn’t yet sunk in on Schultz’s personal Facebook page, where he posted, “GOLD! Sooooooo pumped for this medal. Unforgettable!”
Schultz’s journey to the top of the podium began 10 years ago, when the professional snowmobile racer’s left leg was amputated above the knee after a racing accident.
He took up snowboarding but was unhappy with the performance of his artificial leg. So he developed the Moto Knee, a prosthesis designed for extreme sports that includes a mountain bike shock absorber and “adjustable speed sensitive hydraulic dampening.”
Selling for more than $6,000, Schultz’s creation is used by many of the world’s top amputee athletes in extreme sports, including many of his Paralympic competitors.
Schultz set up a company, Biodapt Inc., to build the Moto Knee and the Versa Foot, another extreme-sports prosthesis he created.
A lover of action sports, Schultz, 36, continues to compete in motocross; he’s won multiple gold medals in the event at the X Games.
Schultz didn’t have an easy path to Paralympic gold. After taking a fall in the qualifying round, he got “shuffled back in the rotation,” as he put it, meaning he’d be competing against higher-seeded athletes in a series of head-to-head runs.
“My qualifying run was a little rough,” he said, “but I was able to refocus, put the hammer down, just keep winning all the way through our brackets and finally come home with a gold.”
“I couldn’t be more pumped,” he added. “The harder you work for something, the better it feels when you finally succeed, and I did that today.”