The employees of the family-owned Pyha ski resort speak proudly about their local Paralympic and world snowboard champion Matti Suur-Hamari. But their mood changes and shoulders shrug as they come to terms with the reality – Suur-Hamari cannot ride in this week’s World Para Snowboard Championships, the first major competition the resort is hosting.
“It’s a shame,” the phrase is repeated by the workers of the resort and Finnish Snowboard Association. They, with Suur-Hamari, have worked together to bring the Championships above the Arctic Circle for the first time.
But two weeks before his home Worlds, the Finn injured his right arm during the World Cup in La Molina, Spain. He described the injury as “super bad,” and got surgery shortly after.
It meant that instead of riding the course on Wednesday’s opening day, Suur-Hamari was left standing in the finish area, his right arm in a sling, hugging the riders as they completed their banked slalom races.
“[My team] have been training here for, I would say, five years,” Suur-Hamari explained. “The resort is always doing a good job, putting the course together and letting us build whatever we want and things like that. So it’s really good to see the World Champs here. But at the same time it’s super sad that I can’t race in my backyard. It’s tough.”
He estimates it will take six months before he will be back to competing.
“I would love to be there racing with all the people, but it’s snowboarding, it’s sports,” he said. “But I’m really stoked to see how the course is working, how the resort has done a really good job with the course and our federation have done really good work with the race.
Pyha – which in Finnish means holy – has hosted World Cups before, including the historic four-way snowboard-cross won by Suur-Hamari late last year.
He never had the chance to ride the banked slalom course and did not say whether he could have beaten newly-crowned world champion Sun Qi’s time of 49.95 – the fastest time of the entire field that day.
“Well you never know. I can’t say because I couldn’t snowboard there. It’s just guessing. And I’m not guessing. We’ll see when I’m racing again.”
“I still have four weeks more with the sling and then slowly doing some recovery exercises,” he said. “It’s going to be a long way. It’s hard. But I’ll be back for sure.”
The Pyha 2019 Worlds continue on Saturday with snowboard-cross. Live results and highlights can be found on World Para Snowboard’s website.