“I’m actually feeling really, really good and I’m just enjoying life and living my sport.”
This season, Finland’s Matti “the Sledgehammer” Suur-Hamari and the Netherlands’ Bibian Mentel-Spee have teamed up to train together. The partnership seems to be a recipe for success as both of them won in their respective banked slalom races at the first Para Snowboard World Cup of the season in Landgraaf, the Netherlands, on Friday (18 November).
Mentel-Spee continued to dominate the women’s SB-LL2 class despite health problems and her battle with cancer – the cause of her losing her lower right leg in 2002.
“Last year I recovered from a lung surgery and during the season, I picked my speed up, picked my training up and was able to finish the competition season and right when I came out of the competition season, I heard the cancer had returned back again.
“But I had remission over summer and I was able to train and we had a couple of weeks of snow and I’m actually feeling really, really good and I’m just enjoying life and living my sport,” she said, with a broad smile.
The Netherlands’ Lisa Bunschoten and Australia’s Joany Badenhorst came second and third respectively.
Mentel-Spee’s training partner, Suur-Hamari, had an equally successful competition with a win the men’s banked slalom SB-LL2. After the first two runs, victory seemed to belong to US Paralympic Champion, Evan Strong until the third run when a mistake cost Strong precious seconds and Suur-Hamari’s stole the win by 0.03 seconds.
“It’s really exciting, the racing. Yesterday it was 0.34 and today it was really close. You never know who is going to win, so it’s really exciting,” said Suur-Hamari.
The pair manage to maintain a strong friendship despite their rivalry and Strong believes this intensity within the sport is what keeps it exciting.
“Today, how the race turned out, is what it’s all about. Somebody sets the bar, somebody else sets the bar and you’re just fighting for inches and it’s a battle til the end. It keeps it exciting and it’s what’s kept me in the sport so long,” said Strong.
USA’s Mike Shea rounded off the podium in the men’s SB-LL2 in third place. After the victory ceremony, Shea offered up his snowboard to one of the new and upcoming riders.
Mentel-Spee was not the only Dutch rider to win at home. Her protégé Chris Vos collected another World Cup victory in the men’s SB-LL1, clocking a time of 36.01 seconds. His success over the past few days further highlights his status as the one to beat.
In the men’s SB-UL the USA’s Michael Minor finished first, closely followed by Austria’s Patrick Mayrhofer. France’s Maxime Montaggioni came third.
The USA’s Brenna Huckaby copied her success from Thursday by winning the women’s SB-LL1 in a time of 37.51 seconds. France’s Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon and USA’s Nicole Roundy came second and third respectively.
Poland’s Monika Aleksandra Kotzian recorded a best time of 44 seconds in the women’s SB-UL.
The next IPC Snowboard World Cup of the season will take place in La Molina, Spain, from 16-21 January and will feature banked slalom and snowboard cross.