Nevada City snowboarder wins gold medal at 2014 Paralympics

Nevada City residents are celebrating the victory of one of their own after 27-year-old Evan Strong won the gold medal in the men’s snowboard cross competition Friday at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic,” said Maddi Sheffield, manager of The Fix for Foodies restaurant, owned and operated by Strong and his family in downtown Nevada City.

Although several members of Strong’s family accompanied him to Sochi, they opened their Nevada City home to friends, who gathered there about midnight Thursday to watch on television as he captured the gold.

Sheffield said people had been calling and bringing flowers to the restaurant Friday, and other businesses had put up congratulatory signs.

Strong’s sister Stephanie Strong O’Brien didn’t travel to Sochi, but she talked by phone with her brother following his win.

“He said it was the most amazing experience of his life, that the energy was so amazing,” she recounted. “He said it was surreal.”

This was the first time snowboard cross was included in the Paralympics, and the United States took all three medals, with Michael Shea winning the silver and Keith Gabel the bronze, Strong O’Brien said.

Evan Strong grew up in Maui, Hawaii, and was a pro-am skateboarder. Ten days before his 18th birthday, he was riding his motorcycle when he was struck by a vehicle as the driver tried to light her cigarette, Strong O’Brien said. Due to injuries suffered in the collision, Strong’s left leg was amputated below the knee.

Before her brother was injured, Strong O’Brien said, “He had never snowboarded. He was a surfer and a skateboarder.”

In 2006, the family moved from Hawaii to the Lake Tahoe area, and Strong turned his talents to snowboarding, training at Northstar.

Since then, he has competed worldwide. He is a 10-time World Cup gold medalist in para snowboard cross.

Strong O’Brien said that in 2009, her brother, along with his wife, Mariah, and other family members opened The Fix for Foodies, specializing in organic, raw food and vegetarian cuisine. Strong credits a healthy diet with helping him regain his strength and ability to compete in athletics following his accident, Strong O’Brien said.

In addition to his personal athletic endeavors and running a business, Strong works with Adaptive Action Sports and other organizations that assist wounded veterans and others who have physical disabilities.

The Paralympics runs through Sunday, but Strong O’Brien said it probably will be about two weeks before her brother returns to Nevada City. His trip home will include a stop at the White House, where team members will be greeted by President Barack Obama, as well as several speaking engagements.