US Paralympic bronze medallist Keith Gabel has his sights set firmly on a golden prize with two years to go until the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
With the IPC Snowboard World Cup season reaching its climax in Les Angles, France, this week (9-12 March) and Trentino, Italy from 15-18 March, Gabel is throwing everything towards making an impression.
“My eyes are always set on the Games in 2018,” he said. “I am always looking to get gold. There’s no way around it, that’s my goal and that’s what I am aiming for.”
The Winter X-Games champion spoke of his excitement for snowboard competitions in PyeongChang, which will see medal events increase from two to 10 from the Sochi 2014 edition.
“I’m excited! This is a very rare opportunity and I can’t wait to see what the South Koreans build for a course” Gabel said. “If it’s anything like what we’ve seen from the recent World Cup and the test event I think it’s going to be a very technical and exciting course, both for the athletes and the spectators”.
To prepare himself, Gabel is training full time in Aspen, Colorado, USA, where he can ride every day.
“I’m really fortunate to have found a place to live right at Snowmass Mountain,” he said. “Every day of training is different. I go through everything from technical skills with turning to hitting the big jumps (55-60 footers) in the pro park and everything in between. It just depends on the day. Then I spend a good amount of time dry land training and in recovery”.
Gabel is not only training for PyeongChang but is also looking forward to the upcoming World Cups in France and Italy. He posted good performances at both at Aspen, USA and Big White, Canada, last February.
“I feel that it went well, I had a couple bad days on snow and a few good ones,” he said. “I won a bronze at the World Cup in Aspen and a silver at the World Cup in Canada, both in SBX [snowboard-cross], so I’m happy with that.
“My class, SB-LL2, is the biggest and has some very talented riders, they all have gotten so good. If you make any sort of mistake whatsoever, you won’t win, it’s that simple. You have to be on your A game at all times”.
One of Gabel’s main goals for this year is to just have fun. He wants to win some World Cups and end the season on top of the rankings, but he also wants to have fun doing it. He likes to get some time in free riding as well as training, helping him stay centred on all levels.
“I like to think of myself as a fearless rider” he said. “I love to fly through the air and I have no problem riding right next to someone at full speed, that’s just a couple of reasons that I love snowboard-cross so much”.
Even when he is not on the slopes, Gabel loves to be outdoors. It is a change from his traumatic early life laid out by ESPN before this year’s X-Games.
“I love to spend time with my beautiful fiancé and my dog,” Gabel said. “I love to go camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, cliff diving, wake boarding, going to the hot springs and I love to ride my Harley. If it’s outside, chances are I love to do it.”
PyeongChang 2018 will be the second time snowboard will be on the Paralympic programme, with eight medal events added compared to Sochi 2014. It will feature 10 medal events (six male, four female) and 70 male and 36 female athletes between 9-18 March 2018.