“I think fans are really stoked about snowboard because it’s a new sport, and it’s a young people’s sport that gets new fans excited for the Paralympics.”
After winning the last race at the 2014 IPCAS Snowboard World Cup Finals on 12 February, Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari could be poised to make a surprise appearance on the podium at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, when snowboard makes its Paralympic debut.
Thanks to his performance at the Finals in La Molina, Spain, Suur-Hamari finished third overall in the World Cup standings this season, behind the American duo of Mike Shea and Evan Strong.
“In La Molina, everything came together for me and I had two really good races there,” Suur-Hamari said. “It was fitting that I won just before Sochi, so now I’m even more excited about going to the Paralympics and seeing what happens.”
The 28-year-old rider has been training with Finland’s able-bodied snowboard cross team this season, helping him vault to 3,860 points in the World Cup standings and a victory in the Finals.
The left-leg amputee will be fighting Shea and Strong for podium spots when snowboard makes its Paralympic debut in Sochi on 14 March, and he will also be facing stiff competition from the USA’s Keith Gabel and New Zealand’s Carl Murphy.
“I think fans are really stoked about snowboard because it’s a new sport, and it’s a young people’s sport that gets new fans excited for the Paralympics,” Suur-Hamari said.
“Paralympic sports are growing up in Finland and the coverage is pretty good now, but can still be better. Though, it’s growing all the time.”
Suur-Hamari, who works as a sound engineer for a private Finnish TV channel, has started attracting attention in the past couple of weeks for his road to Sochi story.
He first tried snowboarding recreationally in 1999, and after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2009, he took up para-snowboarding competitively in 2012. He immediately fell in love with the speed and jumps involved in racing.
“I try not to think about anything,” Suur-Hamari said of when he races down the slope. “In Sochi, leading up to the competition day, I’ll be trying to relax and will have a couple of days to get in good training and get used to the snow conditions.”