Snowboarding Is My Escape - National Ability Center

Snowboarding Is My Escape

“When I’m on my board you can’t tell I’m missing a leg, I’m ‘normal.’ no questions asked. . . snowboarding is my escape.”

—Brenna Huckaby

As a child, Brenna Huckaby did gymnastics all day, every day. In her (very limited) spare time, she could be found playing in the woods, trying to climb the tallest trees alongside her older brothers. But faced with Osteosarcoma (a cancerous bone tumor) at age fourteen, Brenna’s only chance for survival was chemotherapy . . . and an above-the-knee leg amputation. She returned to gymnastics after recovering, but with a prosthetic limb, had to start at the very beginning, rather than where she left off. “It was a tough pill to swallow so I switched gears into snowboarding, my new passion.”

Brenna learned to snowboard on a trip to Park City with the National Ability Center and MD Anderson, and experienced a freedom that she fell in love with: the freedom to be herself and not whomever people judge her to be.

“When I’m on my board you can’t tell I’m missing a leg, I’m ‘normal.’ no questions asked. That is the complete opposite off hill. I deal with all the stares, the questions, the comments, the ‘I broke my leg once’ stories daily; snowboarding is my escape.”

The positive energy and supportive staff at the National Ability Center made it easy to for Brenna return the following winter with her family.

“This summer changed my life. It opened my eyes and heart to a new world of possibilities.”

“There’s never a bad day here, and the staff really care about the participant—more than themselves.” And now Brenna can count herself among the caring staff at the NAC. She joined as a universal programs staff member this past summer, working with everyone from amputees to people on the autism spectrum.

 

Brenna and group on the low ropes course.“This summer changed my life. It opened my eyes and heart to a new world of possibilities. I set another goal that summer,” Brenna shared. “I want to be a nurse focused on people with special needs and developmental disabilities.”

In the meantime, she’ll keep competing. Since joining Team Utah, a partnership with the National Ability Center, Brenna earned a silver medal in the Banked Slalom at the 2014 IPC Alpine Skiing/Snowboard World Cup in the Netherlands, a silver in the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup in Aspen (SB-LL1 time trial), and earned a gold medal at the 2015 IPC Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain.

“I want the gold in Pyeongchang in 2018. Until then, I plan to progress in my skills and keep having fun.”

Brenna gold podium la molina“I want the gold in Pyeongchang in 2018. Until then I plan to progress in my skills and keep having fun.”

Brenna impressed her coaches with how much she improved during one season. Adi Smith has been working with Brenna for two years now, and has nothing but positive things to say: “She is dedicated and very determined. . . . She hates excuses.”

Adi explains: sometimes Brenna’s prosthetic doesn’t allow for certain movement, or makes it harder to achieve a movement needed for snowboarding. She doesn’t allow that to stop her, she simply finds a different way to achieve it. For instance, usually an ollie (using the tail of the snowboard as a spring to get the board off the ground) is achieved by popping off the back foot, but since Brenna doesn’t have an ankle or a knee to lift with, she uses her abdominal muscles to generate a pop, pulling her prosthetic leg up on jumps.

“Brenna has this ability to take whatever challenges her in life, and showing whatever it is who’s boss. I don’t see her letting anything get her down.”

Brenna’s ambitions are grand. “I want the gold in Pyeongchang in 2018. Until then I plan to progress in my skills and keep having fun.”

Knowing Brenna, and all she’s accomplished in her young life, those things shouldn’t be difficult to achieve.

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