Nevada City snowboarder Evan Strong won the inaugural Winter Paralympics men’s snowboard cross gold medal Friday in Sochi, Russia.
The 27-year-old Strong had a total time of 1 minute, 43.61 seconds. Each snowboarder took three runs on the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center course, with the two fastest times used for a total. Strong had a 51.62 in his second run — best of all competitors in any of the three heats — and a 51.99 in his third, after opening with a 52.55.
“Today is a dream — our team. We are all best friends!” Evan tweeted.“Today is a dream, I’m ecstatic, I’m over the moon, I don’t even feel like my feet are on the ground right now,” Strong elaborated after he won. “To be able to pull this off, it’s just a testimony to the United States training, our coaches, to what we’ve been working on all year long.
“This sport gave us life back after our accidents, so what we are doing is celebrating life through snowboarding, and to be able to share it with the world through the Paralympics, that is just the icing on top.”
Strong, who had his left leg amputated in 2004 after a traffic crash, led an American sweep of the podium. Michael Shea won the silver with a 1:44.18 total, and Keith Gabel (1:47.10) claimed the bronze.
“I am the happiest mother in the whole entire world,” his mother Lisa Strong wrote on Evan’s Facebook page. “Thank you all for your constant love and prayers. God bless the USA team. A perfect clean sweep. Evan Strong, gold; Mike, Shea silver; and “Grizzly Gable,” bronze. Amy Purdy took bronze. Congratulations to you all!”
“Congratulations, boys!” Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn also wrote on Evan’s Facebook page.
The Strong family owns the The Fix for Foodies in downtown Nevada City, and Evan attributes his nearly unbelievable recovery to the combination of a live food diet and athletic drive.
“Evan’s personal experience of the healing qualities of this lifestyle occurred during the past seven years in his recovery from a devastating accident in which he was hit by a car head on while riding a motorcycle,” according to the Fix’s website. “This resulted in severe damage to his arm and leg and consequently the amputation of his left leg below the knee.”
Evan, along with his wife, Mariah, and sisters Arianna and Stephanie opened The Fix in summer 2009, with a vision of creating a whole-food vegetarian dining experience in Nevada City.
One menu item: “The Strongwich – Two slices of sprouted bread supporting layers of Brazil nut pesto, olive-mushroom tapenade, raw sharp cheddar, avocado, home-made sauerkraut, nutritional yeast, & dulse flakes. A local classic. Served with a side-salad.”
In May 2012, the International Paralympic Committee announced that men’s and women’s snowboard cross for athletes with lower-limb impairments would debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games as a part of the alpine skiing program.
“We have some of the best snowboarders in the world, and this group of 10 athletes is going to make history in Sochi,” Kevin Jardine, high-performance director for U.S. Paralympics alpine skiing and snowboarding, said at the time. “The common thread that runs throughout this team is just how dedicated and passionate they are. It is going to be an honor to work with this team in Sochi.”
The U.S. entered the Games with three of the top-ranked men in the world, with Evan (Nevada City) and Mike Shea (Castaic, Calif.) sharing the current No. 1 spot on the IPC world rankings, and Keith Gabel (Ogden, Utah) is tied for third with Carl Murphy of New Zealand.
Evan also has been featured on the NBC Nightly News.
A photo gallery of Strong and others practicing earlier in the week in Sochi is here. (Click for larger images).
Evan is interviewed in Sochi after winning Gold:
Evan and Mariah at The Fix restaurant:
Mariah and Evan’s sister, Arianna, in a “selfie” at Sochi during the competition: