The Netherlands’ Paralympic and world champion Bibian Mentel Spee started off the new snowboard season much the same as the previous one, dominating in the women’s SB-LL2.
She won the first banked slalom World Cup races in Landgraaf, the Netherlands.
With the World Para Snowboard Championships taking place in Big White, Canada, from 1-8 February offering another chance for her to shine, Mentel-Spee talked about the best and worst moments of her career so far.
Making her first run on a snowboard again, four months after the amputation of her leg
“This was in Saas-Fee [Switzerland]. My old training mates invited me to come to Saas-Fee and just be in the mountains for a week after being in the hospital and rehab centre. They had arranged that a snowmobile brought me to the halfpipe halfway down the mountain. At first I was just chatting with all my friends, whom I hadn’t seen for a while and when my friends were taking a break, one of them came up to me and asked me if I didn’t want to try to snowboard again.”
After a bit of hesitation due to the doctor’s advice to “take it easy”, she decided to give it a try.
“That just put the biggest smile on my face you can imagine. The next day I tried it again, walked up the mountain a little higher and made some more turns….and on day three I took up a snowboard and made several descents!”
When snowboard was included on the Paralympic programme
“After a lobby of eight years, it was finally happening!!! At that moment I was on a snowboard holiday with my family in Tignes [France] and we sure had a little drink to the great news that evening!”
Winning the first ever Paralympic snowboard title
“Do I need to say more?!?! After the eight-year lobby to get snowboarding into the Paralympic programme, it was just amazing to finally to go to Sochi.”
Mentel-Spee was nominated flagbearer for the Netherlands and enjoyed the experience with her teammates and husband Edwin Spee, who coached them to get to the Paralympic level.
“That only was enough to make the Paralympics in Sochi already a great success. So winning the gold was absolutely the cherry on the pie!!!”
Matthew Robinson’s death at a 2014 World Cup in La Molina, Spain
“I remember that I had to do a re-run because there was somebody in the course when I was doing my run. I came up and went back to the start where I saw Matty starting his run. A couple of minutes later we heard over the radio that there was an accident with one of the riders. The waiting was horrible, not knowing what had happened….the entire Para snowboard community was devastated to hear that Matty had lost his life”.
Losing friends in avalanches
“I’ve known already too many snowboarding friends of mine that lost their lives because of being caught in an avalanche.”
Making mistakes on the slopes
“And of course I sometimes have bad crashes or make stupid mistakes, but compared to the two worst things above, that’s nothing…”
The Big White 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships will feature around 80 of the world’s best Para snowboarders from 25 countries. Media accreditation is currently open.