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Lee Jin-man, AP
Gold medal winner Brenna Huckaby of the United States celebrates during the victory ceremony for the women's snowboard banked slalom sb-ll1 at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Jeongseon, South Korea, Friday, March 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
It’s never too late to put yourself in any position. I hope there are more ladies who want to come out and snowboard with us. —Brenna Huckaby

Brenna Huckaby unleashed her best on the slopes of Jeongseon hoping to outrace the pressure of expectation and chasing a dream born in a life rebuilt.

The Salt Lake resident’s strategy in the newly added Paralympic sport of banked slalom snowboard racing was simple — have as much fun as possible, while maybe giving her male counterparts a run for their money.

“It was close,” the Louisiana native said after earning her second gold medal of the Paralympic Games by shredding the course in 56.17 seconds. “It kept it fun and kept me on my toes for sure. I always think it’s all about having fun, and that was my main focus (on the final run) — to keep it fun, keep it flowy and hope for the best. And that’s what I did. … All I focused on was having fun.”

Huckaby edged silver medalist Cecile Hernandez, France, and her U.S. teammate, Amy Purdy, who won her second medal of the Games with a bronze.

The 22-year-old’s strategy was to start safe and end by trying to beat the boys.

“On my first run, I just try to get a time,” she said of the new event that requires snowboarders to navigate an alpine course on a snowboard three times, with the fastest run earning them their final time. “I just try to stay up. And then, the second run, well, for me, I saw what the men were running, and they were so fast. I was like, ‘Come on girl, you can do better. Girl power up!’ That was what I was thinking on the second run. I just wanted to be faster than the boys, and here I am.” Competing in her first Paralympic Games, Huckaby was almost more excited for her teammate Brittani Coury, who won Paralympic silver in a different class of banked slalom.

“That’s way cooler than my own medal,” she said. “She’s been wanting this so much. She’s seriously the most genuine person. She’s been living with me in Utah, and I see how much she wants this and how hard she works. So it’s incredible to see it pay off in the biggest way.”

Huckaby thanked her family and friends, especially her parents and fiancé, for their support of her when this moment seemed like a childhood fantasy.

“It was a really long journey,” she said of taking up snowboarding after a rehabilitation trip to the National Ability Center in Park City introduced the former gymnast to the sport that would “put a light back in her eyes” and cause her mother to move to Park City with her to pursue a new dream.

As she prepared to receive her second gold medal of the Pyeongchang Games, she said her celebration plans were modest — and maybe a bit unusual.

“I’m going to go home and snuggle my daughter,” she said of 20-month-old Lilah, to whom she dedicated her first gold.

Huckaby said she hopes the exposure for her sport will encourage everyone to follow their dreams, but especially young women who may not see the sport as an option.

“It’s never too late to put yourself in any position,” she said. “I hope there are more ladies who want to come out and snowboard with us.” She even offered her Instagram account (bren_hucks) as a contact option.

“Drop me a DM and I’ll try to answer any questions,” she said, adding the athletes in the sport have a unique bond. “The family (is the best part). It’s just a cool culture.”

Bountiful native Nicole Roundy, a two-time Paralympian, finished just off the podium in fourth place. Roundy became the first above-knee amputee to compete in para snowboarding in 2006, after losing her leg in 1994 to osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

The U.S. was so successful on Friday that it earned 10 more Paralympic medals than any other country competing.