“It’s been a journey! I am so happy to see my daughter go from being on a couch with one leg and losing what she spent her whole life doing, which is training for gymnastics to here. To have that taken away from her and searching for a new passion for her life and finding it when she got on the snowboard.” Brenna Huckaby’s mom, Kristie could barely hold down her tears of joy, talking about her daughter in PyeongChang this year. Brenna Huckaby has made her Paralympic debut at the Winter Paralympics in South Korea aged 22.
Brenna’s mothers tears of joy are a testimony to the sacrifice that Brenna and her family have made in pursuit of their daughters happiness. Brenna Huckaby was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in 2010 after which she had to have her right leg amputated above the knee at the age of 14. Growing up in Louisiana Brenna dreamed of being a world famous gymnast. Without her leg those dreams were shattered. A year later Brenna was invited to the National Ability Center on a rehabilitation ski trip and her mom was her plus one. That day is the turning point that Kristie talks about that changed Brenna Huckabys life around. “I remember the light in her eyes was shining from her heart and she said, ‘mama I love this.’ And my husband and I both said that’s what we want more of.” Brenna Huckaby’s mom was choking up with emotion as she stood at the Jeongseon Alpine center after watching her daughter win her second gold medal at the Paralympics in PyeongChang this year.
What a journey! From losing a dream to finding a spark of hope and then winning two golds at her first Paralympics. Brenna has learnt how to tackle life face on and beat the odds. Mother and daughter moved to Utah to start a second life, leaving the rest of their family behind to support Brenna’s love of snowboarding. Kristie found a job to support both of them and with the help of friends figured out the basics to get Brenna’s training started. Only once Brenna joined the National Ability Center in Utah did her mother return home to her husband and sons back in Louisiana. After that there was no looking back for Brenna.
In 2015 Brenna won her first World Championships. She took the para snowboarding world by storm. She was doing the types of moves and clocking times that able bodied athletes would struggle with let alone above the knee amputees. It was during a tour in Europe that she found out she was pregnant which was a miracle in itself since doctors had told her that the chemotherapy drug Ifosfamide had left her infertile. After that she never thought she could be a mother, but Brenna continued to fight the odds. In 2016 she took a break to have her daughter and on May 21, 2016 her baby girl Lilah Marie Clegg was born.
Fast track to only 2 years later and Brenna is killing it on the slopes in PyeongChang at her first ever Paralympics and making Team USA, her family and her country proud. What an inspiration to women everywhere. When I asked her about how she balances being a new mom and her career she modestly laughs and says, “coffee, lots of coffee! And yes a village of support from her family and friends.” Her fiancé Tristan is also a snowboarder and his dad, Brenna’s father in law happens to also be her new coach. So its one big happy family and truly runs in the family. Together they have all seen Brenna through many ups and downs.
In PyeongChang Brenna established herself as the top contender and the woman to beat. In snowboard cross Brenna beat everyone to top spot with her first Paralympic gold medal. It was a poignant first medal that she dedicated to her daughter, Lilah. I asked her what kept her going and what she said to herself to keep her motivated. Brenna said that when she was at the gate about to ride she said to herself, ‘This is for Lilah, because that is one of the main reasons and pushing through trying times to show my daughter that she can do anything she wants. It was hard today but I just reminded myself why I do this and it’s for her and that helped.”
What a remarkable story of strong mothers raising strong daughters who triumph regardless of what reality bowls their way. Standing tall, riding strong, modeling on Sports Illustrated, breaking stereotypes and showing the world both her beauty and tenacity with pride, Brenna Huckaby is the type of person that shines no matter what. I can only wish her greater mountains to climb because the biggest hurdles are not based on limbs, but only the mighty spirit that blazes on.