“From never being able to walk, to 13th at Sochi 2014, to a silver medal in PyeongChang is an amazing accomplishment"
When Dutch snowboarder Chris Vos remembers how far he has come since his leg injury at 5 years old, he appreciates his first Paralympic medal from PyeongChang 2018 more.
The 20-year-old headed into the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games as the men’s SB-LL1 gold-medal favourite, and sometimes the pressure was too much.
When he left with a silver in snowboard-cross and fourth in banked slalom, he did not see the results as disappointment.
Instead, Vos kept it in perspective.
“From never being able to walk, to 13th at Sochi 2014, to a silver medal in PyeongChang is an amazing accomplishment,” said Vos, whose right leg was paralysed during a home construction accident. “I worked so hard and sometimes too hard to become who I am.”
Vos stormed to success as a teenager at the 2015 World Championships, with double gold and successfully defended both titles in 2017.
Snowboard attracted more athletes and thus increased competition as it prepared for its second Games appearance in 2018.
The USA’s Mike Schultz and Noah Elliott were among those who challenged Vos in the 2017-18 season.
It was not Vos’ best performance on the circuit.
He opened with a victory on home slopes in Landgraaf, but that was his only first place finish. He handed over his World Cup overall crystal globe to Schultz.
“It was a tough year mentally and physically,” Vos said. “With World Championship gold medals in my pocket, I was the one to watch in PyeongChang. I raised the bar even higher, and saw only a medal as my goal, but forgot to have fun.”
“I struggled but got really good help from my parents and coaches,” he continued. “I went to a mental coach and started to do the things that I wanted, and do the things that make me happy. If I did not do this, I would not have been able to win any medal or be close (in PyeongChang).”
“The silver medal means nothing is impossible,” said Vos, who finished second next to Schultz in the cross discipline. “This is my life and I’m so happy I can do this and inspire people to go after their dreams.”
After March’s Games, Vos has been promoting his book “Xtreme,” which tells his journey from his mother’s perspective.
“It is my story from a five-year-old to now,” he explained. “The first three months after my accident is written by my mom straight out of her diary and how I became me with the struggles we had to get a normal life. It is about how every step literally was victory for us.
“The book describes how I got into snowboarding, the people who are important to me, all the ups and downs. The victory and the losses. The books says it all.”
Dressed in bright orange clothes with personalised fan T-shirts, Vos’ family and supporters were evident in PyeongChang.
Whenever he crossed the finish line, he would look into the stands, and his smile was reflected on the big-screen TV.
“Winning a medal with my family, and that they were able to cheer there for me” was his favourite part about PyeongChang, Vos said.
He said a definite yes to competing at Beijing 2022, and his new training regime includes cross-over sports – skating, surfing, mountain biking, climbing and boxing – to keep him motivated.
“Having fun, training hard,” Vos said about his goals for 2018-19. “I hope I will be racing for the medals again at the 2019 World Champs. We train hard and try to get everything better.”