" I feel like I’m being able to work on the fundamentals – back to snowboarding whereas in previous years I was literally just learning how to race. Now I’m actually learning how to do it properly.”
The USA’s Heidi Jo Duce has spoken of her excitement for the 2015 IPC Para-Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain, after a change in approach has led to improved results in 2014-15.
“I’ve been working really hard this year,” Duce said. “I changed the way I was training and I’m on a different programme and it seems like everything has been really positive for me.”
Duce currently lies second in the women’s SB-LL2 World Cup rankings after a series of podium finishes but confessed that her first two seasons were a baptism of fire. Duce only made the team for the sport’s debut at Sochi 2014 just over one year after competing for the US for the first time.
“We found out it was happening and it was my first year on the circuit and this is the first time I feel like I’m being able to work on the fundamentals – back to snowboarding whereas in previous years I was literally just learning how to race. Now I’m actually learning how to do it properly.”
Now that the dust has settled after Sochi, para-snowboard’s growth has accelerated with the introduction of the new discipline of banked slalom and a change in format for snowboard-cross. The lower-limb impairment classification has also been split into two.
Duce is excited by the changes, especially the banked slalom, and believes it has given her a renewed vigour heading into La Molina 2015.
“It’s a good goal for me, it’s fun. It’s just totally different – unlike anything I’ve ever done. I love having the new challenge.”
At the 2013-2014 World Cup Finals in La Molina, Duce managed to come back from a sixth place finish to second in her next race 24 hours later. She believes that her fighting spirit could be the key to making it onto the podium at the Worlds from Monday (23 February).
“A big goal of mine is consistency,” she said. “Just because in the past I have been that girl that will go really fast and then crash.
“The first day I finished sixth, which was really hard for me, it was the lowest finish I ever had. It kind of kicked me in the butt and I was like ‘Heidi – don’t do that again’ and I managed to clean it up and finish second.
“So I’m hoping to go in there with that mentality I came away with on the second day. The first day, the course was really challenging for me. I had never ridden a course with berms but that day was a different experience.”
As for her competition, which in La Molina will not only come in the form of Dutch Paralympic champion and all-round para-snowboard legend Bibian Mentel-Spee, but the Netherlands’ Lisa Bunschoten and Australia’s Joany Badenhorst, Duce is delighted that she gets to line-up alongside such quality.
“I’m stoked. Both of those girls are killing it this year. I’m personally really close friends with both of those girls and I’m really, really, excited that our competition is so stacked this year.
“I’m excited to go back and hopefully kill it.”
La Molina 2015 runs from 23-28 February and will feature nearly 40 riders from 20 countries.
The snowboard-cross takes place on 24 February and banked slalom on 28 February. All competitions will be shown live at the La Molina 2015 website, where live results will also be available.