UPDATE: Brenna Huckaby will be allowed to compete with LL2 athletes at 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing, a German court ruled on Thursday.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – When Brenna Huckaby was a gymnast growing up in Louisiana, she lost her leg due to bone cancer at the age of 14. She didn’t know if she’d ever be able to compete in sports again.
“When I lost my leg, I genuinely believed that was the end of my athletic career,” Huckaby said. “I would have done anything to get just a little bit of my old life back.”
Brenna learned to snowboard at the National Ability Center in Park City, and later to moved to Utah when she was 17. She picked up the sport quickly, winning a world title in her first year of competition. In 2018, she won two gold medals at the Paralympic Games in South Korea in Snowboard Cross and Banked Slalom and. She said her main motivation was her then 2-year-old daughter.
“I told myself, if I’m going to leave this sweet little baby, I’m going to walk away with two gold medals at the Paralympics, and I got them.”
But she might not get the chance to win more gold in Beijing in March. Brenna is classified an LL1 (lower limb) athlete, as an above the knee amputee. There is also an LL2 classification, for below the knee amputees.
But because there weren’t enough LL1 female snowboarders this year to compete in the Paralympics, the classification was dropped.
“The International Paralympic Committee decided that there were not enough women in LL1 at the World Championships for them to host that event in China,” said Huckaby, who is currently competing at the World Championships in Norway. “So, LL1 was excluded from the program. There was no mention of us.”
But Brenna was still allowed to race against LL2 athletes in World Cup races, “competing up” against less impaired snowboarders. And she continued to thrive, even making the podium. That’s all she wants to do — race against LL2 snowboarders even if she is the more impaired athlete.
“I’m completely putting myself at a disadvantage,” Huckaby said. “The thing is, all the LL2 athletes agree. They want us to compete with them. All of the athletes on the circuit think that we should be competing in China with these women.”
So there is a hearing with the International Paralympic Committee on Thursday, where Brenna is hoping she’ll be allowed to compete in Beijing.
“I just want some answers,” she said. “If I can’t compete, I want to know why. There’s no rule that says I can and there’s no rule that says I can’t. And the IPC is just choosing to say that I can’t.”