Snowboard returned to the Paralympics in style, with PyeongChang 2018 being the sport’s second appearance at the Games.
Compared to Sochi 2014 that included only snowboard-cross, the 2018 Winter Paralympics spiced the programme up with a head-to-head format, which turned out to be popular among spectators.
Australia’s Simon Patmore gave his country their first gold medal at a Winter Paralympics since Salt Lake City 2002 when he won the men’s snowboard-cross SB-UL. After competing at Sochi 2014, Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari saw his efforts pay off with gold in the men’s SB-LL2 side. Knowing his potential on the World Cup level, USA’s Mike Schultz took home his first major gold medal by winning the SB-LL1.
The most dramatic race of PyeongChang 2018 came in the women’s SB-LL2 big final between Dutchwomen Bibian Mentel-Spee and Lisa Bunschoten.
Mentel-Spee, who had neck surgery for cancer treatment a few months before the Games, collided with Bunschoten coming down a turn. First to get up, then checking back to see if her compatriot was OK, Mentel-Spee rode down to win back-to-back titles.
For Mentel-Spee, her victory was even more remarkable after battling the return of her cancer in the offseason.
The first Paralympic champions in banked slalom were also crowned in March, with the sport seeing its legend Mentel-Spee bow out of her final Paralympics in style.
Sitting in third place, Mentel-Spee produced her own fastest run in the women’s SB-LL2 category. Fittingly, the last competitive run of her career turned out to be the winning time. She announced her retirement from the sport in October 2018.
While a legend had bowed out, USA’s Brenna Huckaby proved she can be the next big name to take over the women’s side. At 22 years old, the Paralympic debutant added a pair of golds to her three World Championship titles, as she swept both women’s SB-LL1 events.
The USA overall proved to be the strongest in the sport, topping the medals table with 13, including five golds.
Japan’s Gurimu Narita became the first Asian snowboarder to win Paralympic gold. The speed demon was the only rider to go sub-49 seconds in the banked slalom SB-LL2, en route to gold. He also secured bronze in his category’s snowboard-cross competition. Although he said he is done with the sport, do not be surprised if the 24-year-old returns for Beijing 2022.