Imagine you are a teenage gymnast. And then, at 14, because of cancer, your right leg is amputated above the knee.
What happens next? Well, if you’re Brenna Huckaby, you take up snowboarding.
She started in 2013 (she was 17). Her “trophy case” since then includes gold at the 2015 IPC Snowboard World Championships, double gold at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, double gold at the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships – and she’s about to go back for more at the 2019 Championships (see our note below).
“I want people to know that they have a place in this world regardless of what they’ve been through,” Huckaby said.
Oh, and in 2016, she took time out to have her daughter, Lilah.
“I’ve given birth and then slowly developed my professional and snowboarding career. … It’s insane to me how, eight years ago, I was undergoing chemotherapy and amputation. … I don’t care about the medals as much as I care about pushing the sport beyond where we think it can go. If I want more people to join adaptive snowboarding we need to keep building the sport at every level.”
Of course, you can’t be a snowboarder without a snowboard. And you can’t have a snowboard without some mighty materials – including fiberglass (epoxy resin, actually, reinforced with glass fibers) layered over the core – polyethylene plastic for the base (the bottom) – epoxy resins (glue) to hold your board together. And all those materials, start with the petrochemicals (ethylene and propylene) that are produced from petroleum or natural gas.
And it doesn’t stop there. The prostheses used by top-level athletes are made of advanced materials too. The socket for Brenna’s prosthesis is a carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy resin that can withstand the extreme forces produced while snowboarding. This advanced technology relies on propylene for both the polyacrylonitrile carbon fiber and the epoxy.
Put those materials together with a lot of hard work, and some extraordinary natural gifts, and you can wind up with…
(Photo by Andrew Jay, from Paralympic.org)