Paralympic snowboarder Brenna Huckaby traded in Utah’s snow-covered mountains for a sandy beach in Aruba for a spread in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. But while the scenery was a drastic change for the world champion (who is set to compete in the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang next month), a constant that remains in Huckaby’s life is her ability to break through barriers. And her Sports Illustrated debut is another example of that.
The 22-year-old is the first amputee to ever be featured in the coveted swimsuit issue, and Huckaby says she is overjoyed by the outpour of support she’s already received from other women with disabilities.
“[The response has] been extremely positive and uplifting, which I was hoping for,”she tells Cosmopolitan.com. “Before doing the shoot, I thought, ‘Holy cow, I’m opening myself up for a lot of good, but potentially also a lot of bad.’ I wanted it to be done right. I wanted to represent women with disabilities the right way.”
Huckaby says one woman’s message in particular has stood out because of how much she related to the obstacles she’s had to overcome. “If I had seen these pictures when I was younger, that would’ve made [such a] difference in my recovery after cancer,” Huckaby says the woman told her. “Just hearing that made the shoot that much more worth it.”
In 2010, Huckaby was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer — a diagnosis that, due to complications, forced doctors to amputate her right leg. She was only a freshman in high school, and describes that time in her life as her “lowest of low.” During her junior year, she moved to Utah from Louisiana, where the former gymnast took up snowboarding as a way to get back into sports, and the rest is history.
For Cosmopolitan.com, she opens up about how she overcame her struggles with body image and self-confidence after her amputation, dating and motherhood.
Happiness became a priority during her recovery.