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Published February 22 2010

Winter X gold medalist builds own prosthesis

GLYNDON, Minn. - Mike Schultz knows a lot about overcoming adversity. He knows a little bit about snocross and motocross racing. Schultz got to share some of his expertise on all those fronts to a group of snocross racers at Buffalo River Race Park on Sunday.

He won a gold medal at this year’s Winter X Games, and a silver medal at last summer’s X Games – which isn’t too shabby for a guy that could’ve died in 2008 after a horrific wreck in a snocross race that cost him his left leg.

“This is the first clinic I’ve done with a lot of young riders, and it’s something I thought I’d do to help people out,” said Schultz, who hails from Pillager, Minn. “This is something we started talking about doing a few months ago.”

BRRP owner Kevin Nathe and Schultz have been friends for years, and Nathe thought his friend’s racing insight and story would help inspire area drivers.

“He’s somebody that can help all age groups,” Nathe said. “He’s a professional, and he’s dealing with a lot of things.

“He worked on stats and jumping technique and driving through turns and nutrition and working out. Everything.”

Schultz’s accident happened at a race in Ironwood, Mich., in December 2008.

He came down hard on a landing. His knee brace held, but because of the angle of impact, there was nowhere for his knee to go and the joint pretty much exploded.

Schultz, from D1

“I landed with my knee locked. The brace is supposed to prevent that, but my foot landed just right,” Schultz said. “It hyperextended, and there was no where for it to go.”

The horribly blown out knee was only the beginning of his problems.

The hospital in Ironwood wasn’t equipped to deal with the severity of Schultz’s injury. Because of snowfall, a helicopter couldn’t take him to the nearest trauma center – which was in Duluth, Minn.

That meant a five-hour drive. With no painkillers.

“When I got to Duluth, it was pretty much six hours and there was no pain relief,” Schultz said. “Oh, I remember everything about it.”

The result was Schultz’s left leg getting amputated above the knee, but that didn’t stop him from racing. He just needed to find a better way to do it.

A shop junkie, Schultz went to work on building a better leg for competitions. The result was his own creation of an aluminum prosthetic equipped with an air shock from a mountain bike.

“I spend a lot of time in the shop building crazy things, and I figured there was nothing better I could waste time an energy on than building my own leg,” Schultz said. “I needed something with a spring or something to keep my balance from side to side.

“There really wasn’t anything else out there like it.”

And his might be the only one out there now. Schultz said he has a waiting list of other racers that want the prosthetic. He hopes to have a limited number of the legs built and out in the public within the next six months.

His last six months have been pretty good, too.

Three weeks ago, he won the gold medal in the adaptive snocross race at the Winter X Games. Last summer, he won the silver medal in the adaptive motocross race at the X Games.

“After they amputated the leg, you didn’t know if he would ever race again, and that was tough to think about,” Nathe said. “Racing has always been a big part of his life.

“He didn’t walk away from it. He got right back into it, and he’s still successful. That says a lot.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548