Paralympian Brenna Huckaby will compete in Beijing amid controversy

Brenna Huckaby. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Paralympic snowboarder Brenna Huckaby will compete in the upcoming Beijing Paralympics following a German court ruling that she be allowed to compete in a different class.

A SB-LL1 sport class snowboarder, Huckaby ran into issues when the two SB-LL1 events (banked slalom and snowboard cross) were removed from the paralympic lineup. The events were ruled non-viable due to limited participation: only two athletes representing two countries took part in the 2019 World Championships. A minimum of six athletes from at least three countries was required to meet viability.

In September 2021, Huckaby appealed to the IPC, requesting to participate in either the men’s SB-LL1 category or the SB-LL2 category, sport classes which have events in Beijing.

World Para Snowboard rules stipulate that women cannot compete in men’s events and cannot participate in sport classes at the Paralympics for which they are not eligible. As a result, Huckaby’s request was denied. Huckaby then pursued an interim injunction to overrule the decision. Initially rejected by a German court in December 2021, that ruling was overturned on appeal Friday.

In a statement, the IPC expressed its “surprise and disappointment” at the ruling.

“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,” said IPC president Andrew Parsons.

“We eagerly await the court’s written decision because in our view the rules for World Para Snowboard could not be clearer: athletes cannot participate in sport classes at the Paralympic Winter Games for which they are not eligible. Brenna is eligible for the SB-LL1 class and not the SB-LL2 class. Despite this, the court for whatever reason has dismissed the rulebook and ignored the Beijing 2022 Qualification Criteria.”

He added that while IPC is “understanding” of Huckaby’s cause, she is not the only athlete in this position.

“Across the world, there are thousands of Para athletes who want to compete in the Paralympic Games,” he continued. “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.”

On Instagram, Huckaby called it a “big win” for disability inclusion.

The Beijing Paralympics are slated to begin March 4.