Bio: Shilts, Daina - Reflects on Another Gold Medal (2020)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Shilts, Fravert, Schultz, Teter

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 3/04/2020

Neillsville’s Shilts Reflects on Another Gold Medal ( 2020)

Neillsville’s Shilts Reflects on Another Gold Medal

Neillsville’s Daina Shilts poses with a gold medal she won at this year’s Winter X-Games in Aspen, CO. The win brought her gold medals up to five. Ryan Spoehr/Clark County Press

By Ryan Spoehr

Neillsville sports athlete Daina Shilts, who has competed in several Winter X-Games, and Winter World Games, can now boast she has five gold medals. This was her first at the X-Games.

“To have another one is an amazing and unbelievable feeling,” Shilts said.

This year’s Winter X-Games were in Aspen, Co. Shilts’s competition was on Jan. 23. She won the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding Race in the dual slalom.

When race day came, Shilts’ snowboarding run was over in less than a minute at 55.4 seconds. But then she had to wait for all the other competitors to complete their runs too, which was the hard part.

“I was shaking so bad,” Shilts said.

Shilts said it felt like an eternity waiting for all the other competitors to finish. She wasn’t sure how long the wait was, but she guessed it was around 20 minutes.

But, anxiety eventually turned to elation.

“It was a feeling like no other. When the last athletes finished their race, we were impatiently waiting to see the gold. We were so happy,” Shilts said.

She said this gold medal ranks up as one of the top accomplishments of her athletic career because the X-Games are “the best of the best in action sports.” Her other four gold medals were as a competitor in the World Winter Games.

“It feels amazing that all the training and all the training the coaches put in for me and all the hours I spent on the hill and the weight room, it paid off. I couldn’t be happier,” Shilts added.

A highlight was having family there to see her compete.

“My mom and sister totally surprised me by being there,” she said. “I just didn’t know they were going to come because they knew this was the year I was going to get the gold.”

Shilts first saw them right before the competition.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they’re here,” she said when she first saw them.

She cried and jumped into their arms. But, it did not make Shilts more nervous that they were there.

“Actually, it calmed me down a bit. I was just glad they were there,” she said.

When Shilts is on the course, it’s a feeling of being free, she said. She remains concentrated on the course, getting down it and going as fast as she can.

Shilts’ first gold medal came in 2013. Since then, she has become a premier athlete in winter sports, competing in the X-games and Special Olympics.

Ten years ago, she wouldn’t have been able to imagine the rise she has had enroute to national and international athletic dominance.

“Not even in the slightest,” Shilts said. “In 2013, I found my voice in South Korea and I have accomplished a lot since then. I never would have imagined I’d make it this far in the snowboarding and I’d compete at the X-Games for the gold. I never imagined that I’d be in the Special Olympics or X-Games.”

Shilts credits her coaches, including Desiree Fravert, with her success.

“Having great coaches is amazing. She is my coach, but also my best friend,” Shilts said.

As soon as she won the gold medal, Shilts was the subject of much media attention between the Aspen local media, ESPN and local media in Wisconsin.

“To know that little old me from Neillsville can get that much media is great,” Shilts said.

Shilts had a different partner this year. Her partner was Mike Schultz, an above-the-knee amputee from Minnesota.

Shilts’ first interaction with Schultz was the Wednesday prior to the event, which she said was amazing because he is “an amazing athlete.”

“He doesn’t let his legs slow him down at all,” Shilts said.

One of the high points of the experience, aside from winning the gold medal, was first seeing Schultz practice, Shilts said.

“He’s an adaptive snow bike racer, and that was amazing,” she said. “He makes his own prosthetics and [I] got to see that and got to see the snowmobiles flip through the air. They flip these 900--pound machines like its nothing, so it’s really cool to watch.”

Shilts said there was an immediate comradery between her and Schultz, and with his family.

“He’s amazing, and I made a new friend. That is a lot of what this event is about – making new friends. I made amazing new friends in his wife and daughter,” she said.

Shilts got to know people from other countries as well.

“I made really good friends. I met this athlete from Germany – Julia,” Shilts said. “We would talk to them with apps on our phones because they could translate speech to German from English.”

There was a bit of disappointment at first for Shilts with not getting her usual partner, Hannah Teter, but after meeting with Schultz she became excited.

“I figured out what we could bring to the table as a team,” she said. “I got the gold so I couldn’t be happier. I’m glad Hanna was with somebody else too.”

Shilts got to Aspen the Tuesday prior to the competition and met all the other athletes competing. After eating dinner, she and others went back to the hotel. However, Shilts was overcome with nervousness.

“I didn’t sleep at all,” she said.

Despite that, Shilts was able to settle in, work hard and ultimately take home the gold.

Will she ever consider competing at the X-Games again?

“Of course, if I get invited back,” Shilts said. “I’m hoping to reclaim my gold next year.




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