"It’s no secret that I have goals of winning. I wouldn't be racing if I didn't think I could win."
Last season was about rebuilding. This season is about winning for New Zealand’s Carl Murphy.
After suffering two serious knee injuries in 2015 and 2016, the Para snowboarder rode with caution in his 2016-17 campaign. But he will not be holding back when the Para snowboard season gets underway on Friday (1 September) with the Audi Quattro Winter Games NZ on his home slopes.
“It’s no secret that I have goals of winning,” Murphy said. “I wouldn't be racing if I didn't think I could win. I am more hungry than ever to get back riding the way I want to ride and climb my way back into World Cup podiums with the end goal of winning gold at PyeongChang 2018 in both banked slalom and boarder-cross.
“I will be back racing boarder-cross this season with my body back to 100 per cent post injuries.”
The Winter Games NZ will kick off the 2017-18 Para snowboard season that will culminate in the much anticipated PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics Winter Games.
Murphy won the men’s banked slalom SB-LL2 World Cup title in 2014-15 but was not able to build on it.
In 2015 he injured his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which required surgery and then six to eight months of intensive rehab. Just when he managed to fully recover for the following season, he ruptured his patella tendon, and medial and lateral retinaculum on the same knee.
It happened in his first race back.
“This injury was more traumatic to my knee and required 12 months of rehab,” he recalled. “This was extremely hard to overcome given the amount of time and energy I put in to my sport only to be steering down the barrel of early retirement due to injury. I had a great medical team behind me, and with the support of my wife Aleisha and my kids, I put in the hard work in rehab that saw me back riding at a level I think will be competitive [for this season].”
He raced in banked slalom only in four World Para Snowboard events during the 2016-17 season, including the World Championships in Big White, Canada, and the PyeongChang 2018 Test Event.
Murphy wanted to medal at the Test Event, which also served as the World Cup Finals, but ended up leaving disappointed.
“I couldn't find the intensity I needed and the level of riding is so high now you just have to be 100 per cent focused and healthy to even get close to the podium,” Murphy said.
Indeed, the men’s SB-LL2 category will be one of the most competitive with double world champion Matti Suur-Hamari from Finland showcasing his speed from the World Championships in Big White, Canada. The top five will also be tight, as the USA’s Paralympic champion Evan Strong getting knocked off the banked slalom podium, and Great Britain’s Owen Pick and Japan’s Gurimu Narita emerging to silver and bronze, respectively, for their first major career medals.
Para snowboard featured for the first time in the Winter Games NZ in 2011, where Murphy remembers taking silver closely behind Strong.
A podium on his first race back healthy would be a boost.
“It won’t be easy with the calibre of snowboarders that are here,” the 38-year-old said of the two-day event. “All the Sochi 2014 medallists will be here along with other 2017 World Champion podium riders, so I look forward to the challenge.”