Soon after Mike Schultz lost his left leg in a snowmobiling accident, he found a way to keep on competing.
The four-time X Games medalist had his leg amputated to save his life after he lost control of his snowmobile during a race in 2008, CNN reported. Just as soon as the Minnesota native recovered, he set his mind on returning to the slopes, but he couldn’t find a prosthetic that would grant him the mobility he needed to compete.
That’s when he decided to go out and build his own leg.
"Now what? I’m a professional athlete," Schultz told CNN of his response after getting hurt. "It’s kind of the same mentality of it’s an injury. I’ll recover from it and I’ll get back at it."
Schultz started tinkering with equipment and reached out to FOX, a company that develops high-performance shock absorbers and racing suspension products for snowmobiles, mountain bikes and other vehicles. The company invited Schultz to one of their factories and showed him how to use some of the machining equipment.
Within weeks, he had the first working prototype of the Moto Knee and about 18 months later, he started working on the Versa Foot, a customizable performance sport foot for above-the-knee and below-the-knee amputees, according to a press release.
The highly adjustable shock absorbers is one of the features that sets the prosthetic boot apart from others, allowing amputees to comfortably partake in a number of extreme sports, including snowmobiling, snowboarding and wakeboarding.
Seven months after Schultz’s accident, he won a silver medal in the X Games' Adaptive Motocross race and the following year he took home the gold, with the help of the leg he constructed, CNN reported. He was honored with a Popular Science Invention Award last year.
After experiencing the success of his prosthetic, Schultz decided to bring the technology to other amputees who were eager to return to extreme sports through his company BioDapt.
He’s been able to help wounded veterans get more active, and professional athletes looking for better equipment to use.
He made a particular impact on Amy Purdy, a Paralympic athlete and activist who had both legs amputated below the knee when she was 19 after suffering from bacterial meningitis. Schultz sent his prosthetic for her to try as the Sochi Paralympics neared.
"When I was freeriding in powder, on the jumps and over rollers, it was the closest I've felt to my memories of snowboarding without prosthetics," Purdy told ESPN in March. "My first thought was, 'This is a game-changer.'"
Purdy considered using the Versa Foot to compete in Sochi, but decided it was too close to the Games to experiment with new equipment.
While his invention has fulfilled Schultz’s initial goal of getting back in the game, he says it has now taken on an entirely new mission.
"This whole project started out because I wanted to allow myself to do the things I wanted to do, but it’s evolved way past that," Schultz said in a statement. "I’m helping people do things they haven’t done since they had two good legs, and that’s worth it right there."