Bibian Mentel-Spee has closed the chapter of a memorable Para snowboard career. Let us look back at what made the Dutch rider one of the most influential athletes, not only in her sport but also in the Paralympic Movement:
Golden girl amid cancer battle
Mentel-Spee’s three Paralympic and seven World Championship (five in Para snowboard) titles are evidence of her mastery of the sport.
She did all that, while battling cancer.
Just before competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Mentel-Spee learned her cancer returned for the 10th time. Her first run at the Games had many who watched on edge, as it was her first competitive run since her neck surgery earlier in the year.
She went on to win snowboard-cross gold. In banked slalom, Mentel-Spee avoided a spoiler from the USA’s Brittani Coury, who was 0.07 seconds off the gold medal.
Pioneer of the sport
The sport owes its success and inclusion into the Sochi 2014 Paralympic programme to its pioneers, including Mentel-Spee. It took a decade from her initial idea to get “adaptive snowboard” into the Paralympics. There were ups and downs, and learning curves, but the hard work ultimately proved worth it.
Voice for the athletes
From winning on the slopes to developing the sport at the grassroots level, Mentel-Spee has been a leader in many areas, including being an athlete representative. She served two terms as World Para Snowboard’s athlete liaison, communicating the athlete views to the federation’s decision makers.
Passing on the passion
Mentel-Spee created the Mentelity Foundation that works to introduce young children and adults with an impairment, and their families and friends, to boarding sports. In April 2019, they are preparing to host a “winter sports festival” in Switzerland called the Mentelity Games.