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Adaptive snowboarder designs gear for his rivals

Mar 13,2018
Adaptive snowboarder Mike Schultz could very well have the winning formula at the Paralympics - whether or not he even finishes in first.

He is the architect behind some of the most cutting-edge prosthetic components out there, which is no surprise considering he’s been tinkering with technology and testing it himself since losing his left upper leg a decade ago following a snowmobile accident.

There will be around 30 male and female athletes from six different countries at the Paralympic Games in Korea using Schultz’s “Moto Knee” (constructed to withstand high-impact stress), “Versa Foot” (featuring adjustable shock absorbers) or both.

He just might be beaten by his own creations. That’s almost a win-win situation for the world’s top-ranked snowboard-cross and banked slalom boarder. Almost.

“Me winning would be better,” cracked the 36-year-old from St. Cloud, Minnesota, who was voted the flagbearer for Team USA during the opening ceremony Friday. “I do take a lot of pride in knowing that I’ve helped these athletes step up their performance game a little bit - or a lot. It’s very rewarding to see these athletes really bring their ‘A’ game and do the level of riding that they all do.”

His life changed in December 2008 during a snowmobile race in Michigan. He was making a move in a downhill section when he lost his balance and was thrown from his sled. His left knee hyperextended 180 degrees, with his lower leg ending up near his chest. The main nerve to his leg was severed. In an essay on The Player’s Tribune, Schultz said he went through 42 units of blood, but the “reality was that the best way for me to go forward was to amputate at the mid-thigh.”

“I kind of figured my competitive days were over,” Schultz said. “But you know what? Once I started feeling better and healthier and learned to walk on my first prosthetic leg, I realized I’m not going to be satisfied with just walking around.”

In 2010, he started his company BioDapt, where he designs and custom-fits prosthetics out of a workshop behind his house. His company’s mission is simple: “Manufacture the highest quality and highly versatile components that allow amputees to participate in sports and activities.”

Dabbling in the world of snowboarding never really crossed his mind. That is, until an adaptive boarder saw him riding snowmobiles at Winter X and asked if the technology might be applied to his sport.

“I was like, ‘Well, I better go give that a try,’” Schultz said. But the learning curve was steep. “I had my fair share of injuries and hard hits, but I’m an athlete, so I pick things up fairly quick.”

There’s a reason his products are in demand - they’re state-of-the-art. His “Moto Knee” design mimics the action of the quadriceps muscle. His “Versa Foot” offers shock absorbers that control toe pressure and ankle resistance.

Two-time Paralympian Amy Purdy uses the “Versa Foot.” Fellow snowboarder Brenna Huckaby happens to be sponsored by Schultz’s company, her prosthetic components made in purple to match her hair. Also sponsored is 20-year-old Noah Elliott, who lost his left leg to osteosarcoma bone cancer and was inspired by Schultz after seeing him on a talk show. They’ve become good friends.

Elliott also happens to be the No. 2 ranked rider in the world behind Schultz. He swears by Schultz’s innovations. “Mike’s design is truly unique and the performance is true to its name.”

AP
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