Shaun White takes a triple amputee snowboarder down the Woodward Park City halfpipe

A stranger dressed in all black, save for the touch of white on his hood and the stripe on his Abyssal goggles, called Zach Sherman’s name as Sherman balanced himself using a stick modified ski on his snowboard in the lift line at Woodward Park City late last month.

“What’s new?” Sherman answered questioningly. His tone was friendly, but he obviously didn’t recognize the striding man.

He would soon. Few snowboarders don’t know the face of Shaun White.

” Oh shit ! Sherman said as White took off his glasses and introduced himself.

“It wasn’t in slow motion like in the movies,” Sherman, 37, recalled expressing embarrassment at his reaction to the camera. “He walked over and was like, boom, ‘My name is Shaun White.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, I know who you are.’ »

White, five-time Olympian and the man who holds the record for most X Games gold medals, made a surprise appearance at Utah’s youngest ski resort on March 15 to present Sherman with a scholarship from the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Based in San Diego, CAF’s mission is to help people with physical challenges participate in sports and activities by providing opportunities and support. CAF spokeswoman Christy Fritts said the grant is one of 3,000 the organization will award through April. This will help cover Sherman’s travel, training and training costs as he prepares to start competing in adaptive snowboarding.

Twelve years ago, snowboarding became more than a passion for Sherman. First, it became a goal. Then he became liberating.

(Sean Ryan | CAF) Triple amputee Zach Sherman rides the Woodward Park City chairlift on March 15, 2022 with Olympian Shaun White, left. White joined Sherman for a few races and presented him with a grant from the Challenged Athlete Foundation.

“Anything else I do, whether it’s just walking on prosthetic legs or pushing myself around in my wheelchair or doing most other sports, I’m at a huge disadvantage,” he said. “Snowboarding has always been the great equalizer. When I’m hooked up to a snowboard and starting to descend, I’m not the slowest. I’m with the peloton, even passing some people.

Sherman admits he’s always enjoyed meeting people. His favorite sports were accompanied by adrenaline: rock climbing, skateboarding, skydiving, etc. It’s also why he bought a Yamaha R6 motorcycle in 2010. That same summer, he and a buddy started racing as they drove to Sherman’s house near downtown Harrisburg, Penn.

Sherman said he could feel his bike starting to “wobble” from the speed.

“And,” he said, “I just remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m going down. Please aim for the grass.

Sherman lost three of his limbs on the spot – his right arm below the shoulder and both legs at the knees. He’s lucky to be alive and he knows it.

Instead of dwelling on what he lost, Sherman said he tries to keep looking forward to the next thing. He first tried rock climbing, but it was snowboarding that appealed to him.

Now, although he relies on his pelvis and back to absorb the shock when he encounters a bad pass, he is capable enough to keep up with White for a few runs. That includes the halfpipe, although the three-time Olympic gold medalist was the only one to take to the air.

“Just seeing him ride, enjoying life, having a good time,” White said. “It’s incredible.”

White had never volunteered for CAF before but was a natural, Sherman said. Because he can’t get off his board, Sherman usually has someone pull him into the chairlift loading area using his pole. He didn’t want to upset White, but the star volunteered to lend a hand and handled the situation like a seasoned trainer, Sherman said.

(Sean Ryan | CAF) Triple amputee Zach Sherman snowboards in Woodward Park City on March 15, 2022. Olympian Shaun White joined Sherman for a few runs and presented him with a grant from the Challenged Athlete Foundation.

“I think that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, okay, it’s going to be a great day. Shaun isn’t just here for a publicity stunt. He’s here because he really wants to be.

Sherman said the competitions he trains for are the means to an end. Unlike White, he never dreamed of being a professional snowboarder. In eighth grade, while he was still able-bodied, a friend took him to the Roundtop Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania and taught him how to ride. Since then, he has simply enjoyed the atmosphere.

That’s true now too, even though he faces a lot more physical obstacles. But, he believes that if he can compete, he will get more exposure. And through this exposure, he could awaken more bilateral amputees – those who have had both legs or both arms amputated – to the sport of snowboarding.

Currently, so few double below the knee amputees snowboard that they cannot participate in the Paralympic Games. International Paralympic Committee rules state that a minimum of six athletes from no less than three countries must compete in a world championship to be viable for the Games. Also, athletes are generally not allowed to compete against less embarrassed athletes. Park City’s Brenna Huckaby became the exception to this rule at the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing after winning a lawsuit allowing him to compete in a more able-bodied class. She won gold in banked slalom and bronze in snowboardcross.

“I think it’s important to get it out there, to showcase it,” Sherman said. “So that more people with disabilities like me are like, ‘Hey, maybe I can try. Maybe that’s something I could do.

He has already begun to spread the wind. The day before he met White, he rode at Park City Mountain Resort with a double amputee with whom he had shared tips on board setup and bindings. Sherman said it took him seven years to design and build his current setup, which relies on the Switch snap-on mounts popular in the late 1990s.

“It took me seven years to figure it all out on my own,” he said. “And I could tell in the space of just six months that his accident said to me, ‘Those are the parts that, if you want to snowboard, this is what you can do’. Call me if you have any questions. I loved it.

“I hope one day I can become like a whole little Zach army of bilateral snowboarders.”

And maybe one day he can slide over to them and pull up his glasses. And, before he can introduce himself, they’ll recognize him, because few two-sided snowboarders don’t know the face of Zach Sherman.

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