ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – When American Mike Schultz realised he didn’t have access to a prosthetic leg sturdy enough to allow him to continue competing in snocross following an accident in 2008, he came up with a unique solution: he decided to build one himself.
The 40-year-old Schultz later switched to snowboarding and founded BioDapt in 2010, a company that designs lower limb equipment for athletes involved in action sports.
As it turned out, Schultz, who won silver in the snowboard cross LL1 class at the Beijing Winter Paralympics on Monday, was surrounded by competitors who were using some of the equipment he had personally designed.
“I am so proud to be able to race with these guys. We’ve raised the bar so high over the last few years. A lot farther than in 2018,” said Schultz, who won gold in Pyeongchang but had to settle for second on Monday behind Canada’s Tyler Turner.
“I’m still competitive with these guys, I’m building equipment for most of them, so I couldn’t be more pumped.
“I could be just a little bit happier if I won gold, but overall, these guys were pushing me to my maximum.”
A total of 26 athletes from 11 countries at the Beijing Games are using some 40 components manufactured by BioDapt, whose popular innovations include the “Moto Knee” and “Versa Foot”.
Athletes often go to extreme lengths to gain an edge over the competition but Schultz has maintained that while medals are important, little compares to the satisfaction of helping elevate the standard of his sport.
“Me helping them with their performance equipment isn’t, I always feel, the best thing, but I assure you I am so much more about the bigger picture – using what I’ve learned to improve our sport overall,” he said leading up to the event.
“When you can truly make a positive impact on somebody else’s life through something you enjoy doing, that’s a whole different level of pride and reward,” added Schultz, who will also been seen in the banked slalom, in which he won silver four years ago.
After intending to retire following Pyeongchang, Schultz told reporters on Monday that he wasn’t planning to fly into sunset just yet.
“I’m not going to slam the door this time. It might be a long shot but I love competing. I love this stuff, so we’ll see,” he said.
(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal; Editing by Christian Radnedge)