“My personal goal is to medal in Spain - to take a place on the podium, not only in boarder-cross but also in banked slalom.”
Austria’s top para-snowboarder Patrick Mayrhofer is targeting a double podium finish at the 2015 IPC Para-Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain, in February, at the course where he made his competitive debut last season.
In his first races in February 2014, Mayrhofer stormed to a win and second-place at the La Molina World Cup Finals in snowboard-cross.
But the 2014-15 season has handed the 27-year-old a new challenge, with the introduction of banked slalom and a change of format for cross, where riders will race head-to-head after qualification.
Mayrhofer took encouragement from his early results, making his way to the IPC Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup in Aspen, USA, where the new set-up featured for the first time.
“That is a big motivation to continue this season and at the World Championships,” he said.
Mayrhofer has tasted success again, with first-place finishes in banked slalom at the World Cup in Landgraaf, the Netherlands, and Big White, Canada. He also won the snowboard-cross time- trial in Aspen, USA, but finished second to Great Britain’s Ben Moore in head-to-head in Big White.
“My personal goal is to medal in Spain - to take a place on the podium, not only in boarder-cross but also in banked slalom,” Mayrhofer said. “I feel good this season.
“For the boarder-cross, I am really looking forward to the head-to-head races. It’s another fear factor, because if you are racing against your colleagues on the race track, it’s not just about finding your own way, it’s also about looking to see what my competitor is doing. It’s much more action, it’s better for spectators.”
Before being electrocuted at work in 2008 which led to the amputation of his left hand, right-middle finger and muscle damage to his leg, Mayrhofer had rode freestyle. However, after rehabilitation, a chance meeting resulted in him being recruited to the national team.
“At the end in 2012, I was at an exhibition about prosthetics and the Austrian team also had a booth there and they talked to me about which sports I wanted to do,” he said. “I said I was interested in snowboard and that was the start of my little snowboard career.”
On the circuit, Mayrhofer has been impressed with the increasing number of upper-limb impaired competitors coming through, including Moore.
“As far as I can see, we have a lot of new riders. I think more and more will come in the next races too. Now I think, especially coming to the World Championships, that countries will start to invest more in lower-limb impaired riders. It’s a better competition.”
La Molina 2015 will see around 80 athletes from 20 countries gather for the biggest meeting of para-snowboarders since Sochi 2014 between 23-28 February.