Sochi 2014: Snowboarders get ready for Paralympic stage
USA’s Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Amy Purdy, along with New Zealand’s Carl Murphy and the Netherlands’ Biban Mentel, are ready to become household snowboard names.07 Mar 2013
The Netherlands' Bibian Mentel is currently one of the top female snowboarders in the world.
“Snowboarding is something new, something fresh that will definitely excited fans at the Paralympic level."
Para-snowboard has been on the tip of everyone’s tongues this week, as the IPCAS Snowboard Cross Test Event was held on Wednesday (6 March) for the sport that will make its Paralympic Games debut in exactly one year.
Fans are excited to see a new, extreme-type sport make its way up to the Paralympic level, and athletes such as USA’s Evan Strong and Amy Purdy, along with New Zealand’s Carl Murphy and the Netherlands’ Biban Mentel are slowly becoming household names.
And, most importantly, after years of petitioning, snowboarders are finally ready to show the world why the deserve to be on the international stage in Paralympic sport.
“It was a movement from a lot of people in a lot of nations, and we’re very proud to have advanced the sport to the Paralympic platform,” Strong said.
“Snowboarding is something new, something fresh that will definitely excited fans at the Paralympic level.
“It’s been great to compete in international competitions. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like at Sochi 2014.”
Following Strong’s first-place finish at the test event, he will easily go into Sochi 2014 as the one to beat on the men’s side.
“It felt really good to be here in the biggest most high-profile race for adaptive snowboarding so far,” Strong said after the test event. “So it felt really good to go home with a victory. It's a really good way to go into Sochi for next year.”
Strong has been around action sports his entire life, growing up on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where he was formerly a kid skateboarding wiz.
He said most of his training dips into other sports, as when he’s not on the snow he is skateboarding or mountain biking.
At Sochi 2014, the 25-year-old will have plenty of competition from several athletes he knows well who competed with him in adaptive snowboard cross and X-Games events for the last six seasons.
Murphy, along with Canada’s Tyler Mosher and USA’s Mike Shea, will be Strong’s toughest opponents in his quest to claim gold in the men’s lower-limb category, the only classification being offered in snowboard’s Paralympic Games debut.
All of them believe snowboarding has the chance to skyrocket in Paralympic popularity, as the sport did when it debuted at the Olympics.
“I think the same thing will happen with para-snowboard that happened on the Olympic side with snowboard,” Strong said.
As of now, the women’s snowboard competition appears to be a two-horse race between Mentel and Purdy.
Despite being 40, Mentel won the test event this week and will be one of the favourites for gold on the women’s side, as she was previously a six-time Dutch champion in half-pipe and snowboard cross events before she lost her lower leg to cancer.
“I want the sport to grow and I want to show all the kids with a disability that they can snowboard and they can do a lot more than they probably think they can,” Mentel said.
“Besides winning at the Paralympic Games, that's my goal.”
Purdy, who became famous in the USA when she appeared on the reality show the “Amazing Race,” is bound to give Mentel a run for her money.
At 19, Purdy had both legs amputated below the knee after contracting bacterial meningitis.
She placed second at both the 2012 WSF Para-Snowboard World Championships and this week’s test event, and is now training full-time in the lead-up to the Games.
“My absolute goal is to give Bibian a run for her money by the next Paralympics,” Purdy said. “But I know that it's going to take all these little baby steps, and every time I race, I close the gap even more.”
USA’s Evan Strong picked up gold at the IPCAS Snowboard Cross Test Event in Sochi, Russia.
Brazil's Andre Cintra aims to compete at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in para-snowboarding, an event that will also make its debut in Sochi.