Monster Mike returns to SnoCross Adaptive
In January 2015, Mike Schultz had been a member of the USA Paralympic Snowboarding Team for about three months. He was almost giddy about his newest competitive discovery and hoped to become just the second athlete in X Games history to win gold in three different sports -- the six-time XG champ already owns titles from Moto X Racing Adaptive and SnoCross Adaptive. Instead, he crashed out of the Snowboarder X Adaptive competition, breaking his right heel in 15 places. The injury required a five-hour-long surgery, 11 screws and four months in a wheelchair.
Schultz's ankle joint wasn't fused. However, that's still a possibility in the future if his current pain doesn't subside. Schultz, an above-the-knee amputee on his left leg, didn't get clearance from his doctor until July. While he's back on his snowboard and earned a World Cup podium in the Netherlands in November, his return hasn't been easy.
"This was definitely one of the hardest injuries I've ever had to recover from, including the amputation," Schultz says. "Physically it was taxing, but also mentally. I mean, I wasn't really sure how I was going to end up."
During a Snowboarder X Adaptive heat race at XG Aspen 2015, Schultz fell coming out of the gate as the rest of the field rode away. Mike gathered himself and noticed that the three leaders went down together in a corner. Sensing an opportunity to catch up, Schultz charged down the course but didn't have enough momentum or speed to clear a big double jump. He came up very short, landing violently and pulverizing his heel.
Schultz still visits the physical therapist weekly, where he works on strengthening his calf muscles and stabilizing his ankle. He didn't return to a snowmobile until late January, but he's hoping 13 years of X Games racing experience, significant gym training and substantial seat time at ERX Motor Park near Minneapolis help prepare him for Aspen. In 2016, Schultz will compete only in SnoCross Adaptive at X Games; he's not sure his foot is ready for the X Course pounding.
Despite the injury, 2015 wasn't all bad for Schultz. His company, BioDapt, continues to grow, selling artificial knees and feet to fellow amputees. In July, he and friend Spencer McGinnis founded Moto Sport Adaptive, a three-stop racing series for adaptive motocross riders.
"I wanted to have something that adaptive riders could plan on every year," Schultz says. "There's also a totally different type of mindset with adaptive racing because a lot of us had injuries midway through our racing careers that took those careers away, and now we can go back to it. That makes it even better."