The 2018-19 season of Para snowboard made history, with new formats introduced and new winners crowned. Before we close the chapter of this year and start the journey to the next Winter Paralympics in Beijing, China, let us look back on what we learned.
Snowboard-cross was spiced up with the first four-way races introduced at the World Cup in Pyha, Finland, in late November.
Previously, the discipline had been a two-way format, which had already been a spectator favourite and kept everyone on the edges of their seats.
Throw in two more boards, and you have people falling over with excitement.
The new format was carried into the 2019 World Championships in Pyha, Finland, across the women’s SB-LL2, men’s SB-LL2 and men’s SB-UL events.
The team event was also held for the first time ever at Pyha 2019. Although the results were unofficial, boarders and fans were raving about it.
The comeback man
Maxime Montaggioni erased any doubts that his incredible 2016-17 season was a one-time deal.
The French rider had a breakthrough moment when he won the 2017 World Championship title in the men’s banked slalom SB-UL, upsetting US favourite Mike Minor. The following season, Montaggioni won the overall World Cup title, making a statement ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
But heartbreak struck when he got injured and could not compete in his Games debut.
This season, he came back and looked stronger than ever, winning all but one of his eight events, including a double gold at Pyha 2019.
China building to Beijing
This season saw China’s potential in the sport unleashed, not least by 19-year-old Sun Qi.
He claimed his breakthrough victory at the World Cup in Landgraaf, Netherlands, where he upset reigning banked slalom SB-LL2 world champion Matti Suur-Hamari. To confirm his victory, Sun did it again against the Finn the following day. Those were the first career victories for the Chinese.
At Pyha 2019, he went on to win the banked slalom gold medal.
China sent eight athletes (the second biggest team) to the Worlds and left with four medals.
The women’s SB-UL has promising talent, with Pang Qiaorong and Lu Jiangli going one-two, respectively, in banked slalom at Pyha. Pang also captured a silver in snowboard-cross.
With their home Paralympic Winter Games looming at Beijing 2022 and under a new head coach, China appear on track to make their home fans proud.
The Netherlands’ Lisa Bunschoten dominated the women’s SB-LL2, winning all but two of her races this season.
Her biggest rival and fellow Dutchwoman Bibian Mentel-Spee retired after winning double gold in PyeongChang, and Bunschoten has rightfully become the new female face of the sport.
She competed at all six World Cups this season, earning the overall title and her first major career golds at Pyha 2019.