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Snowboarder Brenna Huckaby can compete at Beijing Paralympics

A German court ruled in favor of the athlete Thursday.
Para Snow Sports World Championships - Day Two
Brenna Huckaby celebrates winning gold in the women's dual banked slalom race during World Para Snow Sports Championships in Norway on Jan. 14, 2022. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)Alex Livesey / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Snowboarder Brenna Huckaby may already have two Paralympic gold medals, but she just racked up another win.

On Thursday, a German court ruled that the Team USA athlete, who lost her right leg to bone cancer in 2010, could compete at the Beijing Games following a lengthy battle over her competition status.

"BEIJING 2022 — HERE I COME!" Huckaby, who is currently competing in Norway, shared on Instagram. "We did it! My appeal to be included in the Paralympic Games was successful!"

Huckaby's bumpy road to Beijing began in June 2019, when the International Paralympic Committee, which is based in Germany, had eliminated the U.S. snowboarder’s event classifications, stating there were not enough women to make it a viable event. As a result, Huckaby, who turns 26 on Saturday, was disqualified based on her level of impairment.

"Not all hope was lost as I was told that my class could compete in the less impaired class’ events at the Games aka 'competing up,'" Huckaby, who is classified as an LL1 athlete, which means an above-the-knee amputation, wrote in an Instagram post. "I was excited for this opportunity, and when I participated within the harder class, I earned podium finishes — proving I was more than capable despite my disability."

However, when the formal rulebook for Beijing was released, Huckaby was surprised to learn she would not be allowed to compete at all.

"This news came as a shock to everyone," she wrote on Instagram at the time. "Why was this decision made?....I have done everything I can to confirm my eligibility for Beijing. I have fought with petitions, submissions & legal action. I fought by earning podium finishes in the harder class. I fought by winning a World Title, proving I deserve the opportunity to compete on the world’s biggest stage. And now I am fighting by speaking out."

Huckaby's post got immediate traction on social media from supporters around the world sharing her story, including fellow athlete Aly Raisman and actor Jennifer Garner, alongside the hashtag #LetBrennaCompete.

Following the court's decision on Thursday, the IPC released a timeline of events.

"In September 2021, more than two years after the IPC Governing Board’s decision and just six months before the start of Beijing 2022, Huckaby applied to the IPC to participate at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games," the statement read. "The athlete requested to compete in either the men’s SB-LL1 category or the women’s SB-LL2 category, sport classes which have events in Beijing."

2018 Paralympic Winter Games - Day 3
Brenna Huckaby celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's snowboard cross during the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

The statement continued that under the existing World Para Snowboard rules, women are not eligible to compete in men’s events, and also cannot participate in sport classes at the Paralympic Winter Games for which they are not eligible.

"As a result, the athlete’s request was denied by both the IPC and World Para Snowboard," the statement continued, in part. "Consequently, Huckaby pursued an interim injunction that would overrule the IPC and World Para Snowboard’s decision. This request was initially rejected by a German court in December 2021 but was overturned on appeal today."

IPC president Andrew Parsons also included a statement expressing disappointment in the court's decision.

“We are extremely surprised and disappointed at the court’s decision which shows a complete disregard for the rules and regulations of World Para Snowboard and the Beijing 2022 qualification criteria, and a lack of understanding of the classification system in Paralympic sport,” Parsons said.

“It goes without saying that the IPC is understanding of Brenna’s cause," the statement continued. "She is a world class athlete and a Paralympic champion who is desperate to compete and represent her country at the very highest level. But she is not alone in wanting to do this. Across the world, there are thousands of Para athletes who want to compete in the Paralympic Games. However, due to the nature of the event — the pinnacle of Para sport — not every sport class and sport event can be included. As a result, there are always athletes who miss out and are disappointed.”

The Beijing Winter Paralympics are scheduled to begin March 4.