April 9 - Evan Strong took gold at the US Paralympics Snowboard Cross National Championships today finishing ahead of rivals Mike Shea and Keith Gabel in a repeat of the podium placings at Sochi 2014.
Strong finished just half a second clear of Shea in Sochi and it was a similarly close-run thing at Copper Mountain, Colorado as both men were separated by just over a second this time round.
But it was 2012 world champion Strong who prevailed once again to take the national crown for the second year in a row, while Gabel had to make do with the bottom step of the podium although he was not too disappointed to finish behind his great friends and team=mates.
"I'm always stoked to see my boys doing well, and I think they feel the same way as well," said Gabel afterwards.
"We battled for 1-2-3, same as in Sochi.
"If I'm ever going to miss a spot, I'd rather it go to those guys than anyone else."
Heidi Jo Duce was the winner of the women's competition in Colorado as she made up for a disappointing fifth place finish at Sochi 2014.
Duce retained the national title she won last year at Copper Mountain when she overcame Paralympic bronze medal winner Amy Purdy, who did not take part in the Championships as she is competing on the television show Dancing with the Stars.
Despite Purdy's absence, Duce faced some tough competition but showed her class by finishing clear of Nicole Roundy, who finished eighth in Sochi, while newcomer Brenna Huckabee signalled her intention to challenge for future national and international titles by claiming the bronze medal.
"It was nice to have a good race after not doing too well in Sochi," said 23-year-old Duce.
"I was glad to be ending the season on a positive note.
"It was soft because it was spring riding, but I tend to have the best results on Copper courses.
"They build really good courses."
Roundy and Huckabee's presence on the podium marked the first time two above-knee amputees have reached the podium since snowboard cross became an event recognised by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
"It was very cool to see two above-knee amputees on the podium," added Duce.
"I'm very proud of Nicole and Brenna.
They killed it, and I'm so proud of them.
"I'm stoked to see them stepping it up."
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March 2014: United States fans can vote for Paralympic athlete of Sochi 2014 after shortlist of eight revealed
February 2014: Para-snowboarder Shea named USOC Athlete of the Month
February 2014: World number ones Mike Shea and Evan Strong lead US Para-snowboarding squad for Sochi 2014
April 2013: Strong, Duce and Chandler secure gold at US Snowboard Cross National Championships
March 2013: Mentel and Strong set the standard for Sochi 2014 at Paralympic snowboard test event