Bibian Mentel-Spee learned that her cancer came back after her last competition of the 2015-16 season. Having spent the summer of 2016 undergoing treatment and recovering, it was uncertain if the world and Paralympic champion would ever be back on her snowboard.
But seven months later in February 2017, Mentel-Spee was not only back on the snow, but back standing on the top of the podium.
Fittingly Mentel-Spee won her first competition at the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships in Big White, Canada, on World Cancer Day (4 February), and is No. 8 on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2017.
“This win is such an incredible win,” said Mentel-Spee after defending her gold medal in the women’s snowboard-cross SB-LL2. “I had a really rough summer going on with radiation therapy and the cancer coming back. So I’m really stoked to be here in the finals and winning it in the end.”
Exactly that day a year ago, Mentel-Spee found herself in a similar situation, returning from another battle with cancer to win again. She claimed victory at a 2015 NorAm Cup in Aspen, USA, on her return to competition following treatment for cancer – on World Cancer Day. At the end of 2015, Mentel-Spee had to restart her fight against the disease which led to the amputation of her lower-right leg in 2002.
The cancer returned again in the summer of 2016, and she recalled that moment.
“It was in a spot they weren’t able to operate on anymore. They actually told me there was nothing they could do,” Mentel-Spee explained after winning the snowboard-cross gold medal.
“It didn’t bother me that much. Of course I was a little tired and I took my time. But in August  I was back on the snow training because that keeps me going. I love snowboarding too much, and I have a great team…and they just help me through it.
“And I’m really stoked to be here and standing here, and I just became a world champion again.”
The next day at Big White 2017, Mentel-Spee went on to defend her gold medal in the banked slalom, maintaining her dominance in the women’s SB-LL2 class.
“Oh gosh, wow that’s even better,” said Mentel-Spee when she learned that she won the women’s snowboard-cross SB-LL2 gold medal on World Cancer Day. “I’m going to beat this monster.”
The full rundown of the Top 50 Moments will continue until 31 December.