Special Olympics Wisconsin snowboarder Daina Shilts of Neillsville won her first X Games gold medal during the X Games Aspen Unified Snowboarding competition on January 23, 2020.
Shilts secured first place after having the fastest combined score along with her partner, X Games athlete Mike Schultz of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Schultz is an above-the-knee amputee and three-sport X Games athlete with the most adaptive gold medals in X Games history (eight between SnoCross Adaptive and Moto X Racing Adaptive). Their combined time of 35.76 bested the second place team whose time was 36.02.
Shilts and her teammate competed against nine other Unified teams that paired Special Olympics athletes from around the world with professional X Games athletes. The Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding event, along with this year’s inaugural Unified Skiing event, helped kick off X Games Aspen 2020, which ran January 23 to 26 at Buttermilk Mountain.
“I was instantly crying, I was so excited. Everything was heightened: my emotions, everything. My knees even kind of gave out.” – Daina Shilts on learning she had finally won X Games gold
Although Shilts has now competed in all six of the X Games Aspen Unified Snowboarding competitions since its inception in 2015, this was her first year paired with an X Games athlete other than her longtime partner and friend, Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter. Together, Shilts and Teter won several medals in previous X Games Unified Snowboarding competitions, but this is Shilts’ first time capturing gold in Aspen.
Shilts has dreamed of bringing a gold home from Aspen for years, and the moment she learned she would finally be doing that was an emotional one. “I was instantly crying, I was so excited,” Shilts said. “Everything was heightened: my emotions, everything. My knees even kind of gave out.”
This X Games gold medal is just the latest in a string of high-profile achievements for Shilts. In addition to her six X Games competitions, she has competed in snowboarding in two Special Olympics World Games. She’s earned multiple medals at the international level, including three golds at the 2017 World Games in Austria. In July 2017, she participated in the ESPY Awards, where she was one of just eight Special Olympics athletes selected to share the stage with former first lady Michelle Obama as Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy was posthumously presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Shilts also received an honorary ESPY for her contributions to the Special Olympics movement.
In 2018, Shilts joined ESPN’s first-ever Unified broadcast team in Seattle as an analyst for the Special Olympics USA Games. She reprised that role in 2019 for the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding and Skiing races combine athletes – with and without intellectual disabilities – as teammates to showcase the power of Special Olympics’ Unified Sports®, which helps unite communities and foster an environment of acceptance and inclusion. Half a million people worldwide take part in Special Olympics Unified Sports® competitions, helping to break down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities. ESPN is the global presenting sponsor and official media sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports®.
Shilts’ next snowboarding competition will be February 8 for the Special Olympics Wisconsin State Winter Games at Granite Peak Ski Area in Wausau. You can wish her and the other athletes competing good luck HERE.