A snowmobiling accident could've ended Mike Schultz's career. Instead, it became a detour

Pete Demos / ESPN Images

Pete Demos / ESPN Images

For “Monster” Mike Schultz, three-sport gladiator and the most decorated adaptive athlete in the X Games, a lifelong affair with extreme sports began with an ’80s movie about BMX racing called Rad.

At 13 years old, Schultz liked popping wheelies down the streets of Kimball, Minnesota, just south of St. Cloud, but he really lived to see how fast he could go. Put a competitor next to him, a friend to go elbow-to-elbow with, and the thrill was irresistible.

To afford bikes, contest fees, and entrance to the training track in faraway Brainerd, Schultz found work in a metal shop as soon as he got his driver’s permit. He’d get out of school, crush cars until 11 p.m., and go riding and racing on the weekend.

Eventually he got into snowmobile racing and snowboarding, turned pro, and married his high school sweetheart.

He was at the peak of his career in 2008 when he lost his leg, and everything changed.

Schultz was headed into a new snowmobile season when he wrecked during a qualifier in northern Michigan. He was pitched off his machine in a breakneck downhill section and landed with all his weight on his left leg. He broke a knee and severed an artery. He lost a massive amount of blood. The closest trauma hospital was in Duluth, but a snowstorm would prevent paramedics from airlifting him there.

Matt Morning / ESPN Images

Matt Morning / ESPN Images

After a two-hour slog through traffic, Schultz faced death by kidney failure or life as an amputee. He chose life.

There were sleepless nights, phantom pain, and depression that came with the thought of never competing again.

“I’ve gotta think about doing something else because I’ll never be as fast as I was. That’s the way I looked at it,” Schultz says. “Then I’m back on a snowmobile even before I had my prosthesis.”

Fast forward a few months, and all he could think about was the fun of racing. He engineered his own prosthetics, designing a knee extension with pencil, paper, and cardboard cutouts. Within a year, he was competing again, this time in adaptive motocross, a class for amputees and paraplegics.

Schultz now has an extreme sports prosthetics company called BioAdapt, which feeds his second passion in life: being around other amputees and teaching them how to use new prosthetics technology to live healthy lifestyles.

“Honestly that’s my true life goal, trying to get the best for all the world. I wanna find an occupation that I really enjoy to help others, and hopefully to make a living.”