For the first time, snowboarding is a recognized sport in the Paralympics! The first gold medal in men’s Para-Snowboard Cross goes to American competitor Evan Strong, and what’s more, Team USA swept the medal podium. Such incredible events considering it wasn’t until May of last year that snowboarding was confirmed as a sport for the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games, despite years of hard work to get the sport recognized.
Evan Strong has been addicted to board sports since age 5 when his mother gave him his first skateboard. Additionally, growing up in Hawaii gave him the opportunity to learn and fall in love with surfing. At age 17, Evan was riding his motorcycle when he was struck down by a drunk driver. He lost his right leg in the accident, but not his love of skate and surf. “Boardsports gave me my life back,” Evan said on his way to the medal ceremony.
Early this morning, I was lucky enough to speak with Evan live right after his Snowboard Cross event! I was curious about how he conquered his hurdles on the road to Sochi and how he stayed focused. Evan smiled wide as he summoned his words. “My overall state of mind about hurdles and things like that is to remember why I snowboard. I love to snowboard. I would be doing it even if there weren’t competitions or the Paralympics. I do it because I’m really passionate about it,” Evan reflected. “Boardsports and extreme sports gave me my life back after my leg was amputated. So I think today is really about the celebration of sports and the quality of life that it gives the individual. I know what it gave me, so I really reflect on that whenever I have a hurdle or I have a problem to solve.”
So how does a guy from Hawaii win America’s first gold medal in para-snowboarding? Evan has had a natural ability and love for board sports since he was young. “Boardsports translate really well into other board sports. After surviving my accident and getting back to an active lifestyle with a prosthetic leg, I wanted to do anything and everything because I was here to do it.”
A fateful trip to a local bookstore lit a fire in Evan as he perused photographs of snowboarders in a magazine. “I thought ‘I have to do this.’ I can’t believe I’ve gone my whole life and I’ve never snowboarded. So I packed up everything I moved to Lake Tahoe, California, got a job at a ski resort early in the fall, bought all my snowboarding gear, and waited for the snow to fall. I basically immersed myself into the ski and snowboard culture and waited until the chair lifts and the mountain opened. I rode to the top of the mountain, strapped myself in, and told myself, ‘Well, here goes nothing.’ And then I fell on my face.”
When the going gets tough, you have to keep on trucking, and that’s exactly what Evan did. He competed in the X-Games and World Cup Para-Snowboarding Competitions and claimed multiple medals over the past 7 years. When asked about the difference between the X-Games and the Paralympics, Evan said, “It’s the purest form of sport…It feels very prestigious. The Paralympics have this spirit. Everybody’s stoked. Everyone is really feeling that spirit. It’s an honor to even be here.”
What an incredible turnaround from not having a platform to compete on to sweeping the podium with the world watching. Congratulations to Evan and the rest of Team USA!
To catch more Team USA Paralympic action, including the men’s sled hockey gold medal game, visit: http://www.teamusa.org/