Since beginning competitive snowboarding in 2012-13, Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari has risen as one of the top riders in the men’s field. He celebrated his first Paralympic title at PyeongChang 2018 when he held off the USA’s Keith Gabel in the men’s snowboard-cross SB-LL2. The Finn had to be perfect in the banked slalom races, where he captured bronze in a race where 0.83 seconds separated the medallists. At the 2017 World Para Snowboard World Championships in Big White, Canada, Suur-Hamari retained his world title and added another gold in banked slalom.
It’s a long way from the humble 11th place finish he recorded at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
A year later he pulled off a huge shock by beating US Paralympic champion Evan Strong to the snowboard-cross SB-LL2 gold medal at the 2015 World Championships in La Molina, Spain, having also finished ahead of him in the overall World Cup rankings. Suur-Hamari went on to add a bronze medal in banked slalom to his World Championships haul.
He won both World Cup disciplines in the 2015-16 season, ending again as the leader of the overall rankings ahead of USA’s Mike Shea and Strong. But in 2016-17 he finished second to Strong, showing that the competition is still alive and well in the men's SB-LL2.
It was Strong who inspired the flying Finn to take up Para snowboarding in the first place, having found some YouTube videos whilst recovering from a motorcycle accident in 2009 in which he lost his left leg below the knee.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
In March 2020 he suffered what was described as a 'lower body injury' and missed the final World Cup event in Hafjell, Norway. (yle.fi, 11 Mar 2020)
He sustained an injury to his right arm while competing at the 2019 World Cup event in La Molina, Spain. He underwent surgery and was unable to compete at the 2019 World Championships in Pyha, Finland. (paralympic.org, 28 Mar 2019)
He received the Snowboard Spectacle of the Year award at the 2016 Spine X Awards in Finland. (Instagram profile, 11 Jan 2021)
Mikko Wendelin, who had been his coach for six years, passed away in November 2019. "I'm so deeply heartbroken and can't believe this at all. I've been crying so much that there's no tears left anymore. I don't really have words now but trying to go forward step by step. It was an unbelievable journey with [Wendelin] and [he is] always in my heart wherever I go. When the gate drops I know [he] will be there with me." (Facebook page, 11 Jan 2021)
|Men's Para Snowboard Cross Standing||Final Round||2014-03-14||11|
|Men's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2||Race 1||2015-02-24||1|
|Men's Banked Slalom SB-LL2||Race 1||2015-02-28||3|
|Men's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2||Race 1||2017-02-04||1|
|Men's Banked Slalom SB-LL2||Race 1||2017-02-07||1|
|Men's Snowboard Cross SB-LL2||Final||2018-03-12||1|
|Men's Banked Slalom SB-LL2||Final||2018-03-16||3|