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INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
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a female Para snowboarder

Bibian Karina Mentel

Alpine Skiing
3

Bibian Mentel-Spee had been setting the standard for her sport since 2002, and no woman was able to stop her winning ways.

Mentel-Spee called an end to her glittering career after winning double gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. It seemed unlikely that she would compete after undergoing two major surgeries and cancer treatment in the lead-up to PyeongChang 2018. But that made her victories even more special.

Mente-Spee retained her titles at the 2017 World Para Snowboard World Championships in Big White, Canada, in another stunning season, although she had to settle for third place in the World Cup banked slalom rankings after being beaten by compatriot Lisa Bunschoten and Australia’s Joany Badenhorst.

Mentel-Spee was a six-time Dutch champion in half-pipe and snowboard-cross events and on her way to qualifying for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games before she lost her lower right leg to cancer. Four months after her operation, she was back riding and within the year she was again a Dutch national champion.

Mentel-Spee is a multiple world champion and sent a firm message of intent to her rivals ahead of Sochi 2014 when she won the women’s race at the Test Event in March 2013, with a time that would have earned her a silver medal in the men’s race.

She then swept all of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 World Cup events, taking home the titles in all of them. This included historic first wins in the new discipline of banked slalom and the new head-to-head format for snowboard-cross in 2014-15, to add to the first Paralympic gold she won at Sochi 2014.

The Dutchwoman continued her winning streak at the 2015 IPC Para Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain, taking double gold, before adding another World Cup title in the snowboard-cross in 2015-16.

Mentel-Spee holds a Masters degree in sports management and coaches many of the athletes on her national team. She started her own foundation, the Mentelity Foundation, which focuses on motivating, activating and facilitating children with impairments through board sports (wakeboarding, snowboarding and skateboarding).

Biography

Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Limb deficiency
Origin of Impairment
Acquired

Further personal information

Family
Husband Edwin Spee, son Julian
Other names
Bibian Mentel-Spee
Occupation
Motivational Speaker
Languages
Dutch, English
Higher education
Economics - Randstad Topsport Academy: Netherlands

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She took up snowboarding at age 21, and was back on a snowboard four months after her amputation.
Why this sport?
She was training to compete in snowboarding at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City when she was diagnosed with her illness. She was determined to return to the sport after her amputation, and used it as part of her rehabilitation.

General interest

Injuries
In December 2017 and January 2018 she underwent two surgeries to have the C6 vertebra removed from her neck after a cancerous tumour was discovered. She recovered to compete at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. (pyeongchang2018.com, 12 Mar 2018)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Let difficulties make us better, not bitter." (Facebook page, 09 Jul 2017)
Awards and honours
She was flag bearer for the Netherlands at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games in 2014 and 2018. (pyeongchang2018.com, 09 Mar 2018; paralympic.org, 07 Mar 2014)

In 2017 she received the Strong Woman Award from Dutch company VanHaren. (strongwomenaward.nl, 25 Apr 2017)

She received the Courage Award at the 2015 Paralympic Sport and Media Awards, in recognition of her efforts to get snowboard included in the Paralympic Winter Games. (paralympic.org, 14 Nov 2015)

She was named the 2014 Paralympic Athlete of the Year by the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation [NOC*NSF]. (nos.nl, 16 Dec 2014)

She received the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. (paralympic.org, 15 Mar 2014; net5.nl, Mar 2014)

In 2012 she was named a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau in Netherlands. (wintersport.nl, 11 May 2012)
Other sports
She competed in able-bodied snowboard at World Cup level before her amputation. (SportsDeskOnline, 16 Mar 1998)
Milestones
In 2014 she became the first female to win a gold medal in snowboard at the Paralympic Winter Games when the sport made its Games debut in Sochi. (paralympic.org, 15 Mar 2014)
Impairment
In December 1999 she tore ligaments in her right ankle in a fall. After six weeks of rehabilitation she returned to snowboarding and completed the season, although her ankle was still swollen. When the ankle continued to swell she had an X-ray, which showed a spot on her tibia. Three months later it was diagnosed as bone cancer, and she underwent surgery to remove the tumour. Just as she was about to resume training the tumour returned, so she had her lower leg amputated in 2001. The cancer has returned on multiple occasions, including for a ninth time in July 2017. (margriet.nl, 30 Jun 2016; bibianmentel.com, 2015; net5.nl, Mar 2014; road2korea.org, 16 Aug 2017; nos.nl, 15 Jul 2017)
Other information
RETIREMENT
She retired from competitive sport in October 2018. (paralympic.org, 24 Oct 2018)

FOUNDATION
In 2012 she founded the Mentelity Foundation, to encourage children and young adults with a physical impairment to participate in sport. "I was regularly publicised because of my sports performance, and my story was mostly known. I regularly received letters and phone calls with questions from other people with impairments. It often went to very simple things, but it gave me the idea to do something with it." (foryoumagazine.nl, 07 Sep 2016; bibianmentel.com, 2015)

BOOK
In 2011 she published 'Met mijn goede been uit bed [With my good leg out of bed]', a book about her life story. (bol.com, Oct 2011)

OTHER STUDIES
She studied an international master in sport management at the Johan Cruyff Institute. (LinkedIn profile, Mar 2014)

Results

Unit Date Rank
Paralympic Winter Games 2014 (Sochi, Russia)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Para Snowboard Cross Standing Final Round 2014-03-14 1
2015 IPCAS Para Snowboard World Championships La Molina (La Molina, Spain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2 Race 1 2015-02-24 1
Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL2 Race 1 2015-02-28 1
2017 IPC Snowboard World Championships Big White, CAN (Big White, Canada)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2 Race 1 2017-02-04 1
Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL2 Race 1 2017-02-07 1
Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games (Pyeongchang, South Korea)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2 Final 2018-03-12 1
Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL2 Final 2018-03-16 1