“There are a lot of countries from South America in winter sports and we are trying to work together to go as a group to make sure we can have more athletes from Latin America at these major events.”
Argentina’s Carlos Codina is wearing many helmets at the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships.
At Big White, Canada, where the second edition of the Worlds is currently underway until 8 February, teams come with a mix of resources, from personal coaches to technical support staff.
Codina is a one-man band.
It is a tough job, the 47-year-old admits.
On Thursday (3 February), the start gates opened for the first training day of the Championships. He waits in line for his third run down the snowboard-cross course.
Coaches around him talk to their athletes, reminding them to either stay balanced at the first turn or watch their alignment. Teammates coach up their fellow teammates, commending them on their runs.
Codina is his own coach.
He fell on his first training run and told himself to focus on the next.
“Looking at the field, I would say if I’m in the top 10, I’ll be pretty happy,” Codina said.
The SB-LL2 athlete will challenge the likes of Finland’s reigning snowboard-cross SB-LL2 world champion Matti Suur-Hamari. The US duo of Mike Shea and Evan Strong, defending banked slalom world champion and double-Worlds silver medallist, respectively, are also podium favourites.
Codina is realistic about the competition he faces.
At the 2015 Worlds in La Molina, Spain, Codina took top five in both snowboard-cross and banked slalom.
At the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, he competed in both alpine skiing and snowboard cross, taking a top 10 finish in the latter.
Considering how far he has gotten with limited resources, Codina is content yet competitive.
“A lot of passion,” Codina said when asked about the process of getting to Big White 2017.
After a laugh, he continued: “Obviously I struggle to manage myself because at the same time I’m my own coach, I’m the wax technician, as well as the athlete. I need to be on time for every single meeting [such as the team captain meetings]. But you need to go slowly, be consistent and be very well organised.”
In Big White, Codina is the lone athlete competing from Latin America.
He envisions the next World Championships to be different, where an athlete from his country, or even region, will not go solo.
“We [Argentina] have some girls in Para snowboard,” he said. “We have some athletes not just in Para snowboard but also alpine skiing. But we just need to be consistent and I’m sure in a few years we will have more athletes from Argentina coming to these events.
“But it is not only Argentina putting athletes in Para winter sports. There are athletes in Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica. There are a lot of countries from South America in winter sports and we are trying to work together to go as a group to make sure we can have more athletes from Latin America at these major events.”
For now, Codina is paving the way and soaking in the mountains.
“I’m pretty happy,” Codina said. “Last year I had an accident but now I have full recovery. And I’m now here, and it’s always good to be at Big White. The course is pretty technical. With my age it’s getting tougher each year. But I’m still enjoying it.”
Around 70 athletes from 15 countries are in Big White for the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships, which runs until 8 February. It is a chance for athletes to secure qualification spots for their countries at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Athletes will warm-up with training runs, and the first world champions will be crowned on Saturday in snowboard-cross. Banked slalom finals will be contested on 7 February.
Full results will available at Bigwhite2017.com.
Rights free pictures for editorial use are available for download at Flickr.
The competition can also be followed on Facebook.com/ParaSnowboard, Twitter and Instagram (@ParaSnowboard).