Amid a new generation of snowboarders rising, Cecile Hernandez is one of the veterans holding her ground and still battling for the top of the women’s SB-LL1 podium. She fell short of her first Paralympic gold in the banked slalom at PyeongChang 2018 and won bronze in snowboard-cross.
But the Frenchwoman has looked strong during the 2018-19 season. She won all but two of her races over World Cups so far, including a victory over US rival Brenna Huckaby in snowboard-cross at the Big White World Cup. And if there is anyone who can challenge the reigning world and Paralympic champion, Hernandez is that person. She lost both her world titles to Huckaby at the 2017 Worlds, so revenge might be on her mind at the 2019 edition.
In her Paralympic debut at Sochi 2014, Hernandez finished nearly 10 seconds (9.88) behind Netherlands’ Bibian Mentel-Spee, a result everyone expected. What few predicted was that the French snowboarder would win a silver medal and bump USA’s Amy Purdy to third place, nor did they expect it to happen just months into her first World Cup season.
The 2014-15 season was one of her career-best, winning every single World Cup race she entered as part of the women’s SB-LL1 field. That included wins in banked slalom and the revised format for snowboard-cross, where athletes race head-to-head after an initial qualification round.
Hernandez won the banked slalom again at the 2015 World Championships in La Molina, Spain, where she also finished second in snowboard-cross. In the 2015-16 World Cup season, she stormed to victory in the banked slalom and silver in snowboard-cross, to finish first in the overall rankings ahead of USA’s Nicole Roundy and Canada’s Michelle Salt.
Hernandez looked primed to capture double gold at the 2017 World Championships following a successful World Cup circuit that saw her category’s win the overall title. But Big White, Canada, was where Huckaby burst into the scenes. The two are expected to continue fighting for the top prizes each time they meet.
The Frenchwoman became a Para snowboarder after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002. Initially a BMX rider, she looked for a sport that gave a similar sensation as BMX and found that in snowboarding.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
She dislocated her hip and knee 11 days before she won the SB-LL1 snowboard cross competition at the 2019 World Cup event in La Molina, Spain. (paralympic.org, 05 Mar 2019)
She suffered a shoulder injury in the early part of 2018. (dicodusport.fr, 01 Mar 2018)
She sustained an injury to her left foot in 2017, which prevented her from training for five months. (Facebook page, 26 May 2017; sportdecouverteblog.wordpress.com, 28 Nov 2017; sans-filtre.fr, 20 Sep 2018)
In 2015 she was troubled by injuries and the effects of her multiple sclerosis. (paralympic.org, 10 Nov 2015)
In June 2014 she was named a Knight of the National Order of Merit in France. (paralympic.org, 10 Nov 2015)
She considers her impairment her biggest rival in her career as it can affect her condition during the day. “My biggest enemy is my multiple sclerosis because I don't know how I will wake up tomorrow. I'm not the same at nine, at 10:00, at 11:00, and at 14:00. It's the nerve system so it changes when I'm tired, when I'm upset, when it's cold. But it's my life. I have to always improve my level and I have to fight against my disability. [Sport] helps my mind, my ability to stay strong, but it's also tiring for my body.” (paralympic.org, 29 May 2020)
FAST TRACK TO SOCHI
In December 2013 she was introduced to French Para snowboarder Patrice Barratero at an awards ceremony, which inspired her to try the sport for the first time. A few days later she received a phone call from the coach of the French national team, who said he would like to test her. She tried out the sport over the Christmas period, with mixed results, and was then informed in January 2014 that a final test would be at a World Cup event in Colorado, United States of America, that month. She finished fourth, and was told the national federation would try to enter her into the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. Although she was not on the initial list of athletes that would be participating at the Games, the French federation requested special dispensation for her and she was named in the team on 11 February 2014. She went on to win a silver medal in snowboard cross in Sochi, three months after taking up the sport. "I arrived in Sochi without putting pressure on myself. I was coming out of nowhere, I had not trained much. I arrived with the carefree motivation of a beginner. I did not know anything and I was there just to have fun." (sans-filtre.fr, 20 Sep 2018)
She has worked as a commentator for the French radio station Europe 1, and as a journalist for French newspaper Le Figaro. (sans-filtre.fr, 20 Sep 2018; dicodusport.fr, 01 Oct 2017; douane.gouv.fr, 20 Jan 2017)
|Women's Para Snowboard Cross Standing||Final Round||2014-03-14||2|
|Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL1||Race 1||2015-02-24||2|
|Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1||Race 1||2015-02-28||1|
|Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL1||Race 1||2017-02-04||2|
|Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1||Race 1||2017-02-07||2|
|Women's Snowboard Cross SB-LL1||Final||2018-03-12||3|
|Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1||Final||2018-03-16||2|
|Women's Banked Slalom SB-LL1||Race 1||2019-03-27||1|