No. 33: Bibian Mentel’s special Sochi run

Snowboarder Bibian Mentel talks about the different elements that led to her winning gold at the Sochi Test Event in a time that would have secured her silver in the men’s race. 29 Nov 2013 By IPC

It is clear that the multi-world champion intends to take gold when the sport makes its debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

The year before the biggest event of Dutch rider Bibian Mentel’s career has been immense.

At the end of last season, the 41-year-old former able-bodied snowboarder completely dominated her a snowboard cross Test Event for Sochi 2014, beating her competitors with a time that would have seen her collect silver in the men’s event.

Finishing just 0.3 seconds behind American superstar Evan Strong, Mentel’s time of 1:28.10 would have cleared silver medallist Mike Shea by 0.20 seconds had she been competing with the men that day.

It is clear that the multi-world champion intends to take gold when the sport makes its debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

She will go up against three-time World Cup gold medallist American Amy Purdy, her closest rival, and perhaps even some of the riders that she herself has bought on through development charity, the Mentelity Foundation.

Mentel can easily recall all the different elements of that day in Sochi, remembering the course, conditions and her specially made prosthetic that came together to make one perfect run.

The same run which she will be hoping to hook up again come March.

The famous run through Mentel’s words

“Two, three days beforehand, it snowed so we had really nice snow on the course,” she said. “The conditions were really good.

“I pulled out, and I knew I had to pull up my knees real fast because of the kicker that was coming so that I wouldn’t fly too high. I wanted to absorb the first feature.

“And then two or three rollers, really absorbing through my knees, trying to get some momentum into the rollers to get the speed.

“Into a turn to the left-hand side, over a big roller where, if you weren’t fast enough, you’d end up flying into the corner, so you want to touch snow all the time.

“Then, over the turn, leading up to a kicker which I had to jump a little bit to clear it.

“Turn to the right, a section of three slalom/bank turns where you could lose a lot of speed if you didn’t take the perfect line.

“Then, a quick turn to the left, a flat part where you could go straight, then a step-down and then off to the finish.”

Achieving the perfect balance

Mentel has worked closely to develop her prosthetic over time to achieve the perfect balance and position on her board because it’s essential for her to replicate the feeling she had in able-bodied competitions.

“I wanted to be in a neutral position, in the position I would stand on my board,” Mentel said.

“It’s made totally out of carbon fibre and there’s no extra elements in there. It’s a really stiff leg with a really normal foot underneath, because what I wanted was that when I make a move with my leg, I wanted that to be transferred to my board.

“I want it to be really, really direct. I like riding with stiff boots and a stiff bindings and a nice board so that the board is really part of my body, and I didn’t want any suspensions in there because it makes it slow. I tried that and it didn’t work for me.

“At a certain point I was like, ‘yes.’ This was the feeling I was searching for.”

Mentel already opened her 2013-14 season with a double Europa and World Cup win on home snow in Landgraaf, the Netherlands, last week (21-22 November). Purdy was chasing her all the way, picking up silver in both Cups and promising that she is watching Mentel all the time.