With just days until the snowboard season gets underway in Landgraaf, the Netherlands, Dutch rider Mike Ultee has explained what motivated him to take up the sport after an accident led to an impairment in the right side of his body.
Ultee, 24, was on a family holiday when he hit his head against a wall, causing a stroke and a spasm in his muscles. The incident left him unable to walk or talk.
He quickly questioned how he could start walking again, and the answer was clear: “Train hard and prove to other people that anything is possible.”
Ultee would go on to make his IPC Snowboard World Cup podium debut in 2015-16, finishing third and fourth overall in the men’s snowboard-cross and banked slalom SB-LL1 respectively.
“I’m really happy with the way my season went. My best memory of last season was that I got the possibility to race with all the other great riders!” he said.
“I have two brothers who snowboard, but doctors told me it was impossible for me to snowboard,” he continued. “I can’t control my right leg so they thought it was a no-go. But I showed them they were wrong about that!”
Not only is Ultee working to improve himself as a snowboarder, he is also helping others to reach their goals.
“When I set myself the goal to look how far I could go with training my right arm and leg to become stronger, I noticed it was the thing that I wanted to do as my job,” he said.
“If you really want something, you can do it, no matter what stands in your way. It is about how bad you want it and that is where I want to help other people. I want to train people and help them to become stronger and accomplish every goal, no matter if their goals are big or small.”
This season Ultee will compete on home snow at the season opener in Landgraaf, which features a Europa Cup on 16 November, swiftly followed by two World Cup races on 17 and 18 November.
With the new season quickly approaching, Ultee also hopes to ride his best at what will be his World Championships debut in Big White, Canada. He hopes to enjoy every second of it and work his way towards the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
“I hope I qualify myself for PyeongChang 2018, that is my main goal. And if I do, then I just want to get the best out of myself,” he said.
To get there, he knows he has to improve some technical aspects and get more control over his right arm and leg. He trains at the Netherlands’ national training centre twice a day and when he is not there he is on the snow, mostly in Austria or Switzerland.
But reaching the top is not a solo ride. There are many people Ultee is thankful to for pushing him beyond limits and inspiring him day by day:
“The ones that inspire me the most are my parents, my brother, my teammates Chris Vos and Lisa Bunschoten and my coach Frank Germann. They really inspire me to get the best out of myself.”
The 2016-17 World Cup season begins in Landgraaf before the circuit heads to La Molina, Spain, from 16-21 January.
The 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships take place from 1-8 February.