The Paralympic Movement and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are mourning the loss of Dutch snowboarder Bibian Mentel-Spee.
Having successfully campaigned to have Para snowboard included in the Paralympic Winter Games, Mentel-Spee won three Paralympic titles, claiming her first gold on the sport’s debut at Sochi 2014. Her achievements in Sochi saw her recognised with the BP Courage Awards at the 2015 Paralympic Sport and Media Awards.
Despite two major surgeries and cancer treatment in the lead-up, Mentel-Spee returned to the Paralympic stage and won two remarkable gold medals at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
IPC President Andrew Parsons said: “What Bibian Mentel-Spee did for Para sport in general, let alone Para Snowboard, is immeasurable and words simply cannot do her or her achievements justice.
“Her positive attitude facing the most challenging circumstances head-on, her encouragement and support to youngsters with disability to embrace sport and her values while competing at the highest possible level were just incredible and awe inspiring.
“Bibian rightly picked up the Courage Award in 2015, but it is another one of the IPC’s values I associate her most with and that is determination. Bibian was one of the most determined characters you could meet. She saw the potential of Para snowboard and was determined to take it to the next level. She campaigned for years to get the sport onto the Paralympic programme and then dominated every single medal event she competed in, finishing with three gold medals from three events. Her determination to compete at PyeongChang 2018 following major surgeries was another level and underlined that she was a competitor and a fighter of the highest order.
“Today is a very sad day for the whole Paralympic Movement and my thoughts and deepest condolences are with Bibian’s family at this difficult time. I would also like to extend my condolences to Bibian’s friends, the Para snowboard community and to the Dutch National Paralympic Committee.”
Mentel-Spee was a six-time Dutch champion in half-pipe and snowboard-cross events and on her way to qualifying for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games before she lost her lower right leg to cancer. Four months after her operation, she was back riding and within the year she was again a Dutch national champion.
Her achievements include historic first wins in the new discipline of banked slalom and the new head-to-head format for snowboard-cross in 2014-15, to add to the Paralympic gold she won at Sochi 2014.
Mentel-Spee retired from sport after PyeongChang 2018.
Together with her husband Edwin, she founded the Mentelity Foundation, to encourage and inspire children and young adults with disabilities through snowboard and other board sports.