“It’s a really high-speed course. There are big jumps. It’s a proper boarder-cross course and everybody seems to be doing pretty good. We are training now and the biggest jump is around 20-21 meters. And most of the riders are hitting that.”
Three-time world champion Matti Suur-Hamari is looking forward to more tight races at his home World Para Snowboard World Cup, which begins Friday (1 December) in Pyha, Finland.
The competition will be the third and penultimate race on the circuit, and features 80 athletes competing over two days in snowboard-cross. It follows the latest World Cup held in Landgraaf, Netherlands, that saw a thrilling tiebreak result in the men’s banked slalom SB-LL2.
Although the tiebreaker saw Suur-Hamari take the silver medal behind the USA’s Mike Shea – as the fastest time of the athletes’ two runs combined decided the winner – the Finn said those types of races makes the sport fun.
“It was really crazy,” Suur-Hamari recalled. “We were so close to each other. It seemed like everyone trained a lot in the summer time. And I would say in our class, the top 10 are really close to each other, and that’s what makes racing exciting.”
The competition in Landgraaf was Suur-Hamari’s first of the 2017-18 season. The defending banked slalom and snowboard-cross world champion did make up for his second-place finish against Shea the next day with the gold medal. But the top four finishers were all within less than one second of each other; Shea, Japan’s World Championships banked slalom bronze medallist Gurimu Narita, and the USA’s Worlds snowboard-cross silver medallist Evan Strong are all potential podium finishers in Pyha.
“From the Landgraaf race, I was wondering how my summer training has been, like am I in the top level? How is my level compared to other riders?” Suur-Hamari said. “In Landgraaf I’m still in the fast group. So it kind of calmed me down. Of course the boarder-cross is different than banked slalom, and I would say boarder-cross is my main thing.”
Pyha will be the first time the top riders get to test themselves in snowboard-cross ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, which are just under 100 days away.
While Suur-Hamari is familiar with the course in Pyha, which is about two hours away from the main slope he trains at, he has been amazed by how well the other snowboarders have been riding the course during training.
“It’s a really high-speed course. There are big jumps,” Suur-Hamari said. “It’s a proper boarder-cross course and everybody seems to be doing pretty good. We are training now and the biggest jump is around 20-21 meters. And most of the riders are hitting that.”
The World Cup in Landgraaf also featured close results in the men’s SB-LL1. Four-time Dutch teenage world champion Chris Vos and the USA’s Mike Schultz traded places at the top of the podium, and they will test each other in snowboard-cross for the first time this season.
After finishing twice behind the Netherlands’ reigning Worlds silver medallist Lisa Bunschoten in Landgraaf, Australia’s Joany Badenhorst will look to flip those results this weekend in the women’s SB-LL2.
France’s Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon will try to do likewise in the women’s SB-LL1 against the USA’s three-time world champion Brenna Huckaby.
The USA’s Mike Minor won both World Cups and the Europa Cup races in Landgraaf by nearly two seconds, and will surely be the one to chase in Pyha.
Competition runs until Saturday (2 November). Live results from the World Cup in Pyha will be available on the World Para Snowboard website