“Monster” Mike Schultz earned his nickname long before a snowmobile accident cost him his leg in 2008. He says the injury was just a freak incident and not a result of dangerous riding that earned him the “monster” name. As such, Schultz hasn’t lost his edge in developing into an elite adaptive snowboarder. But he admits the nickname may be more appropriate given his prosthetic limb—which he created specifically to remain active in sports. His work with prosthetics has since helped many adaptive athletes, a key reason he was chosen to be the U.S. flag bearer at the Pyeonchang Paralympics.
A decade removed from what could have been the worst day in life, Schultz has a chance to be one of the most feel-good stories in Pyeonchang. Schultz, an X Games champion, has already won world titles this season in his two snowboarding disciplines: boardercross and bank slalom. He’s already on the front of a Kellogg’s cereal box, too, making him one of the faces of Team USA for the next two weeks. Connect Sports talked to Schultz about recovering from the life-altering event and representing his county.
How did you lose your leg?
I was injured racing snowmobiles. I was living my dream of being a professional racer, competing against the best of the best in the world. In 2008, I had a severe injury in a competition. After about three days in hospital, they told me it was the best course of action to amputate my leg. It hit me and my family like a ton of bricks. We were kind of unsure what would happen next, but we took it one step of time and recovered.
How did you go about developing your own prosthetic limb?
I have always been a problem solver. I wasn’t satisfied just sitting on the sidelines, so I had to come up with the tools to get me back into action. That’s when I started developing my own prosthetic leg, which was the following spring, four months after [the accident]. I got back on a dirt bike. I actually competed in Summer X games seven months after my injury. I realized a lot of other adaptive athletes could be utilizing the equipment I was working on and that’s ultimately what let me into the sport of snowboarding. I learned to snowboard after I became an amputee.
What attracted you to snowboarding after a life on bikes and snowmobiles?
I do boardercross and banked slalom and there are a lot of similarities in the boardercross, especially. There are a lot of bumps and jumps and its head-to-head competition. The biggest difference is I don’t have handlebars to hang on to. Some friends of mine talked me into racing snowboards for the first time in 2012. The Paralympics in 2014 added adaptive snowboarding and that’s when it came on my radar.
What’s it like competing for Team USA?
Let me tell you, the first time I put on that red, white and blue jersey, it was definitely something special. Competing for myself on my own team with dirt bikes and snowmobiles is pretty big, but it’s a whole different level representing your country. The preparation and time and effort I’ve put into being best athlete I can be has surpassed everything I’ve done up to this point. I’ve got lot of great momentum going in. I won the championship in both events this year on world cup tour. Things look great going into games.
What’s all the media attention you’ve received been like?
The past few months have been a whirlwind to say the least. Our season started on a volcano in June. We were down at the south end of world in New Zealand, and north in Finland. Between the competitions, there’s been lot of media. A lot of that is being partnered with great companies like Kellogg’s. I’m on the front of a cereal box right now, and yea, I’m out there for everyone to see. It’s been a real fun adventure.
What motivates you to compete at such a high level?
What really drives and motivates me is the challenge at hand, whether competing for a championship as an able-bodied athlete or whether trying to create a tool to get me back in action. I look at everything in front of me as challenge. You could look at [the injury] as a disability, but I flip it around and look at it as a challenge and see how far I can go. I’ve got lot of great people behind me. My daughter Lauren is 4 years old and she is the biggest Team USA cheerleader ever. It’s a lot of fun to watch her and my wife get behind me as I go after this big goal.
Which lessons have you learned also apply to everyone reading this?
The advice I’ve got to everyone there is how important it is to really set goals for yourself and find something that makes you excited and you look forward to every day. Find that and work toward it and work toward the best you could be at it. I’ll tell you, the harder you work at something, when you finally reach your goal, that’s what really counts.
How did you get the “Monster Mike” nickname?
“Monster Mike” been with me since the beginning of my pro racing career on snowmobiles. I’ve always had a real aggressive riding style up over the handlebars and just charging all the time. That’s when it started and even more relevant now as I am an adaptive athlete. I am just aggressive and want to go after what’s in front of me.