After crashing hard in practice and bending up his sled, then getting tipped over in first-corner off in the Adaptive Snowmobile Snocross final on Sunday afternoon, one might expect “Monster” Mike Schultz to be looking for excuses for not earning more gold at an X Games event – if you didn’t know him. But Schultz is one of the best “never quit” stories you’ll ever find.
The racer-turned-prosthetic designer from Pillager, Minnesota, earned his fifth straight gold medal in adaptive motorsports – two on dirt bikes at summer X Games events and this, his third straight on a snowmobile in Adaptive Snocross with a come-from-way-way-way-behind victory fueled by a last-lap pass.
Adaptive Snocross is for racers who have suffered injuries that have left them with paralysis or missing limbs. To some viewers, that might sound sad, but each competitor provides his own inspirational story of overcoming their injury and not holding back.
Schultz (who had to have his left leg amputated after a Dec. 2008 snocross accident) and paralyzed former motocross and supercross superstar Doug Henry were the favorites going into the final, but they got a lot of company at the front.
On green on the nationally televised final, the eight sleds came off the starting line in a bunch. In the first corner, former freestyle superstar Paul Thacker (paralyzed while practicing freestyle in December 2010) got into the back of Schulz’s sled, tipping both machines over. While those two men tried to right their sleds and get themselves back upright, the rest of the field powered far ahead.
At the front was Henry on a Yamaha, though he had heavy competition in the form of Michigan’s Jim Wazny (who lost his left leg in a 2000 motocross accident). First-year adaptive athlete Garrett Goodwin was close behind. Goodwin, the son of hall-of-fame racer Greg Goodwin, was a rising star snocross before his July, 2011, injury in a motocross accident, was in their wake.
Henry led early but then Wazny cut under him in a corner to grab the lead. Henry grabbed it back on the downhill, then Wazny reclaimed the point in a corner. It didn’t last long. On a straight, Henry’s ski got into Wazny’s track – it’s unclear if Henry was moving out or if Wazny was cutting in, but either way Wazny’s Ski-Doo took a hard left and tipped over, ejecting the driver. A game Wazny hopped back to his sled and refired, but he’s be stuck deep in the field.
The contact slowed Henry enough where suddenly Goodwin was all over him. Like the battle with Wazny, Goodwin took the lead momentarily from Henry, but then Henry claimed it back. There was a storm brewing behind them, however. Schultz was coming fast, clearly running the fastest laps on the track. He had knifed through traffic and now was seven seconds back in third – and he erased most of those seven seconds in one lap. He got by Goodwin with two laps left, then caught Henry as the two sleds were taking the white flag. Schulz then grabbed the lead and ran away to collect another Gold with a 1.2 second gap over Silver-earning Henry, with Goodwin grabbing a hard-fought X Games Bronze.
“How about that for some excitement?” Schultz said to the ESPN reporter after the race. “My heart was pounding before I ever got here with that practice track.” Later he added, “That was fun, I didn’t know if I was gg to be able to catch them.”
“I knew it was only a matter of time before he was going to be right back in the mix,” Henry said.