Q&A with para snowboarder Mike Shea

Mike Shea

Four years ago, U.S. men registered a Paralympic podium sweep for the first time ever. Mike Shea, the snowboard cross silver medalist, was part of that historic moment. Now he’ll be looking to collect more hardware for para snowboarding in PyeongChang.

Earliest memory of snowboarding?
I remember being on the school bus at 8 years old when I saw a friend reading a snowboard magazine. He finished reading it and then gave it to me. I remember taking that magazine home and hanging pictures on my wall. I was already skateboarding at the time and snowboarding looked so intriguing to me. It wasn’t until several years later that I actually went snowboarding but that early memory sparked my desire to snowboard.

Favorite memory of watching the Olympics or Paralympics?
I remember this moment distinctly. The Olympics have long been a household tradition. Every two years we sit in front of the TV watching the best athletes in the world. The first time I remember wanting to be an Olympian was when I saw Michael Johnson beat the 200m world record at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. That moment changed my life forever.

Hardest part about para snowboarding?
The hardest part of my sport is competing against some of my best friends on the team. The USA has some of the top contenders in our sport. It can be challenging to wake up next to your biggest competitor, eat breakfast with them and then compete against them. At the end of the day there’s only one winner. When competition is over we go back to being friends no matter the outcome.

Most interesting teammate?
Brenna Huckaby, She’s the youngest on the team and really knows how to keep the mood light hearted. She definitely wins the goofball award and I love it.

Any rivals?
The media is always trying to find some sort of rivalry in our sport. You won’t find it here. We’re all great friends outside of competition.

Within snowboarding, who has been your greatest influence?
Evan Strong. When I first came into the sport, I wasn’t the healthiest athlete. Evan actually influenced me to eat healthy and taught me how to cook some raw organic meals. It’s something that’s stuck with me over the years and I will always be grateful for that influence.

What’s a big obstacle that you’ve overcome in your life?
Definitely overcoming addiction and alcoholism. That was 100% harder than going through the amputation of my leg.

Any other jobs aside from snowboarding?
When I’m not training or competing I am a personal fitness trainer. It’s been great to take the things I’ve learned over the years and share that knowledge with other people to change their lives. I also used to be a woodworker/furniture maker prior to my athletic career.

Do you play any other sports?
What sports don’t I play? I ran track most of my childhood and still run track as a cross-training tool for snowboarding. I coach baseball for my kids and also play recreational adult softball. That’s not including every extreme sport known to mankind — downhill mountain biking, surfing, skateboarding, etc.

Which summer event would you like to try?
Track!!! I’ve actually debated running track after South Korea. I just need to connect with the right people and coaches. I also need to see if my ankle problem will negatively affect the long hours on the track.

Do you collect anything?
Tools. I collect woodworking tools and have hundreds of hand planes, chisels and saws from as early as the 1800s.

If you were not an athlete, what would you like to be doing?
Owning my own gym.

Music of choice while training?
I was raised during a generation of hip-hop. One of my first concerts as a young teen was Vanilla Ice and Wu-Tang Clan. Needless to say that genre of music has stuck with me over the years and I still listen to it while in the gym and when I’m snowboarding. My favorite artists are ASAP Rocky, Drake, Marc E. Bassy, G-Eazy and The Weeknd. When I’m not listening to hip-hop, I usually resort to soul, jazz or blues. I’m a big fan of B.B. King, Hendrix, Bill Withers.

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang?
Success is never dependent on the outcome of a competition. You win some and you lose some. I judge my success on how well I am able to prepare for the Games. If I get to Korea and feel like I’ve done everything possible to prepare myself for that moment, then I will feel like I have accomplished success. From that point forward everything that happens is out of my control and any outcome in Korea will make me proud.

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