“If I don’t do this and I look back in five years, I will regret it all. So that’s why I’m going for it.”
Long jump world champion Daniel Wagner is trading the track and field for the slopes, as he targets PyeongChang 2018 qualification.
The 24 year old said Denmark has a snowboard spot available for upcoming Paralympic Winter Games, and he hopes to prove why he deserves to ride for his country in 100 days’ time.
“I’m competing [this season] to get that spot,” Wagner said. “So my goal is going to the Winter Paralympic Games. That’s the dream.”
While Wagner is known more for his athletics medals – having done an iconic backflip after winning World Championship gold in the men’s long jump T42 in July – he is no stranger to snowboarding.
He began the sport before his accident in 2008, when he had his right leg above the knee amputated after a gymnastics accident.
“[Snowboarding] was one of the things I wanted to get back to. The first thing I wanted to get back to was my gymnastics,” he said.
He was advised that if he wanted to do a winter sport, he should try alpine skiing because he would not have to use his prosthetic.
“That didn’t fit me,” he said. “I wanted to use my disability so that’s why I chose snowboard because I’m forced to have both legs in the snowboard. And that’s why is started it. In 2014, I found out it came on the Paralympic programme and there was a lot of competition and then I thought OK why not go for it and see how it goes. And I’ve never regretted that since.”
Earlier in November, Wagner snapped on his boots and snowboard in Landgraaf, Netherlands, taking on the World and Europa Cups.
It was his first World Para Snowboard competition since the 2015 World Championships in La Molina, Spain, where he won the bronze medal in the men’s banked slalom SB-LL1.
But he said the competition has gotten higher since, and he saw that in Landgraaf, where he was satisfied with banked slalom finishes over all three days. He acknowledged that Dutch teenager four-time world champion Chris Vos, and the USA’s Mike Schultz will be the ones to beat in his class.
“I thought I learned a lot competing,” Wagner said. “That’s why [I was at Landgraaf] and I’m looking forward to seeing how I can progress from here. I took a three year break because I was focusing on my track and field. I’ve been competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and World Championships in London [Great Britain] lately so being back here and seeing how the competition is really nice. The competition is super high, but I managed to get into top 10 every day so I feel really satisfied.”
From his training in athletics – in which he holds three medals from Rio 2016 and London 2012 – he knows he is ready physically for the season. It is the technical aspects of snowboarding that he needs to polish.
He will get to do that this week in Pyha, Finland, for the third World Cup, which begins Friday (1 December).
“If I don’t do this and I look back in five years, I will regret it all. So that’s why I’m going for it,” Wagner said.