Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
"Monster" Mike Schultz is well known for his medals in motocross and snocross. He is the only person to have a gold medal in both the summer and winter X Games. He planned to retire from the racing tour after this season, and was hoping for another X Games medal in January.
Mike won't get another snocross medal, gold or otherwise, in the 2012 Winter X Games though. Not because he's not ready or able, but because all snocross events have been deleted from the X Games lineup for next year. (They decided to cut about seven hours of programming from the next Winter X Games, so all snocross and one or two ski events were eliminated.)
When life throws him a curveball, though, Mike Schultz hits another homerun. He's out on the slopes hoping to make it to the X Games anyway: this time in snowboarding, Adaptive Boardercross.
"It's a tall order for me," Mike said, "but that's what I'm working for." He hasn't spent much time on a snowboard before now, but that doesn't worry him.
Whether snowboarding, skiing, or racing dirtbikes or snowmobiles, Mike wears the prosthetic and Moto Knee he fabricated himself.
For those who don't know, Mike Schultz lost his leg after a crushing accident racing snowmobiles in northern Michigan three years ago. The traumatic injury to his leg, and small chance of saving it, led Mike to opt for an above-knee amputation. He was up and walking much sooner than doctors expected; they obviously didn't know him and what he's capable of. He was riding again just weeks later.
The $60,000 prosthetic leg he was fitted with allowed him to walk, but it just wouldn't let him do all the activities he was used to doing. So he set out to build his own.
Mike's background prepared him well for this challenge. Since high school he's worked in metal-fabricating, first at R.M. Johnson and Kimball Railcar Repair, then at Kim-Built constructing custom RVs and trailers, then at Power Sports and CNR Construction.
He's always been hands-on in his dirt bike and snowmobile racing. Tuning his own suspension all these years was good preparation for making and fine-tuning his MOTO knee, he explained.
"I've always been a problem-solver of some sort," he added.
Oportunities come knocking
Rob Powers was an Olympic athlete. He served in the military in the 1980s. His platoon was deployed to the Middle East and, as Schultz explained, many of them didn't make it out. Powers founded the American300 Warrior Tours as a way to give back. He gathered star Olympic and rodeo athletes for tours on military bases to raise morale.
Last year, the American 300 "Heavy Medal Tour" went to seven undisclosed military bases in the Middle East. This time the talent was Levi LaVallee and Mike Schultz, both Minnesota snocross gold medalists. Schultz was the first amputee included in the American300 tours.
Schultz and another amputee, Chad Crittenden of Season 9 "Survivor" fame, have just finished (Dec. 20) the "Never Quit" tour of military bases in the United States. Stops included Minot AFB in North Dakota, Malmstrom AFB in Montana, and rehab facilities in Fort Knox (Louisville), Ky., and San Antonio, Texas.
"It's a blast!" said Schultz. "It's neat to see what goes on day-to-day. You see it on TV, but to go there and see in person what the guys go through [is different]." It's more meaningful, too.
Powers, the founder of American300, has known Schultz for many years from the days when Powers was an announcer for the national snocross tour. Including Schultz in his tours seemed a natural development.
Perhaps the most moving part of the "Heavy Medal Tour" for Schultz was spending a couple of days at a recovery hospital in Germany. Guys were sent there just out of the field, Schultz explained, for a few days before they were sent to the United States. They had no family there.
"It was good to cheer them up a bit, get them to smile," said Schultz. "We could take their mind off things for awhile.
The temperatures above 120 degrees posed challenges for amputees, Schultz explained. Sometimes his prosthetic just didn't do what he wanted it to do. But he quickly added that "it all worked out great."
No one knew they were coming, expcept for the higher-ups.
"We'd just pull into an airport and talk with guys working on jets," Schultz said, adding that he's had a fascination with airplanes and jets since early childnood.
"It was as good for us as it was for them," he said. He and others on the tour only had to put up with the heat for the 10 days of the tour. But these guys, he explained, were working on a tarmac all day, every day, in 130-degree heat. In that context, the heat didn't bother Schultz so much.
Schultz plans to retire from racing after this season so he can put more energy into his business, Biodapt. He has designed and manufactures, in conjunction with various machine shops making parts, the Moto-knee, an all-sport, high-impact, "kick-ass" knee. This is the knee Schultz uses in his active lifestyle, from horseback riding to wakeboarding, motocross to snowboarding, and anything else that suits his fancy.
The benefit of the Moto Knee is that it's so versatile; it can be used for any type of action sport. He's designed feet for use with the knee in specific sports like downhill skiing. He's working on a prototype adjustable foot for snowboarding.
His friend Rob Powers is a big fan of Mike's Moto Knee. He's brought an extra one with him to demonstrate on both tours.
So far, the research and development for the Moto knee is pretty much done. Marketing is what comes next, and Schultz feels the military may be the biggest market for his prosthetic that works in Minnesota cold, and even underwater.
"The government does pay for a lot of special equipment [for wounded soldiers}," Schultz explained. An every-day microprocessor-controlled prosthetic leg costs about $60,000. The Moto knee is less than 10 percent of the cost.
What he's learned
Monster Mike Schultz has learned a lot as he's carved out his life's course. He has adapted to what is needed. He has found ways to make his life full and fun. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that he's found ways to do that for others as well.
"Pay attention to the little things," advises Schultz. "It'll help you in the long run."
Mike Schultz, a Kimball native and graduate, not only does Kimball proud, but America as well. You can follow him and his exploits on Facebook at:
Monster Mike Schultz #5 and
American300 Warrior Tours