Around 80 of the world’s top snowboarders from 25 countries are set to hit the slopes in Big White, Canada, for the 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships, which begin with the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday (1 February).
The second edition of these World Championships will feature 10 medal events and serve as the last major competition before the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Familiar faces will look to defend their titles from 2015 in La Molina, Spain, including Dutch snowboarder Chris Vos.
At La Molina, Vos stormed to double-gold in the banked slalom and snowboard-cross in the men’s SB-LL1 at just 17 years old. Now, turning 19 later this month, the youngster has a chance to add two more world titles to his resume ahead of PyeongChang 2018.
Norway’s Kristian Moen finished runner-up to Vos in snowboard-cross two years ago and could challenge the Dutch teenager. Additionally, the World Cup season has seen the USA’s Mark Mann rise to the top of the overall rankings and could be a potential challenger for Vos in both events.
The women’s SB-LL1 features France’s Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon, who enters as the reigning world champion in the banked slalom. She can also add the title of snowboard-cross world champion to her resume after finishing runner-up to the USA’s Brenna Huckaby in 2015. The 21-year-old US snowboarder however appears to be finding her stride, leading this season’s World Cup rankings, just ahead of fellow teammate Nicole Roundy, double-bronze medallist from La Molina 2015.
The USA’s Sochi 2014 snowboard-cross bronze medallist and TV celebrity Amy Purdy will try to show she is still one of the best in the women’s SB-LL1 class after missing the early portion of this season due to injury. Canada will be cheering home favourite Michelle Salt onto the podium. The 31-year-old is coming off a third place in the overall World Cup standings and hopes to reach the Worlds podium for the first time ever.
Big White 2017 will have another Dutch snowboarder in Bibian Mentel-Spee. A pioneer of Para snowboard, Mentel-Spee will look to build upon her two golds from La Molina 2015 in the women’s SB-LL2 category. The Sochi 2014 Paralympic champion made a strong return in early 2016 following treatment for cancer, and still remains at the top of this season’s overall World Cup rankings.
Her toughest competitions may come from compatriot and mentee Lisa Bunschoten, as well as Australia’s Joany Badenhorst. Bunschoten holds a bronze in snowboard-cross from two years ago, and Badenhorst a silver in banked slalom. Both will aim to make a name for themselves ahead of PyeongChang 2018.
After sweeping the podium at Sochi 2014 in snowboard-cross SB-LL2, the USA’s Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel look to repeat that at the World Championships stage. The trio went one-two-three respectively at the Paralympics, but Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari is determined to win back-to-back titles. Overall World Cup winner last season, Suur-Hamari can also improve on the banked slalom bronze from the 2015 Worlds. Host nation’s Alex Massie, bronze medallists from La Molina 2015, can give Canada a big prize.
Austria’s Patrick Mayrhofer and Italy’s Manuel Pozzerle highlight the men’s SB-UL. Mayrhofer, last season’s overall World Cup champion, holds the banked slalom World gold, while Pozzerle boasts two Worlds medals – gold in snowboard-cross and bronze in banked slalom. However the USA’s Mike Minor will make his World Championships debut and can shake up the podium. The 26-year-old emerged onto the scene last year after finishing second to Mayrhofer in the overall rankings and is undefeated so far this season.
Athletes will warm-up with training runs, and the first world champions will be crowned on Saturday (4 February) in snowboard-cross. Banked slalom finals will be contested on 7 February.
Full results are available at Bigwhite2017.com.
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The competition can also be followed on Facebook.com/ParaSnowboard, Twitter and Instagram (@ParaSnowboard).