“Para-snowboard has continued to grow tremendously since its debut at Sochi”
Eight athletes were announced by US Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, to the roster for the 2015 IPC Para-Snowboard World Championships from 23-28 February in La Molina, Spain.
The event will be the largest snowboarding competition since the sport’s debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games, hosting an international showing of nearly 40 athletes and 20 countries. It will feature the new banked slalom and snowboard-cross head-to-head disciplines. The US comes into the event as the top nation in the overall world cup standings.
The roster includes three women and five men, including five Paralympians. Highlighting Team USA is the men’s trio of Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel who made the historic US medal sweep in the first-ever snowboard-cross event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Strong and Shea are ranked one and two overall in the men's SB-LL2 with Gabel sitting in fourth place as the World Championships approach. Both the men's and women's teams own the top spot in the overall standings for the snowboard-cross competition.
Nicole Roundy and newcomer Brenna Huckaby are highly ranked women's snowboard-cross and banked slalom athletes along with Heidi Jo Duce in the SB-LL1 and SB-LL2 respectively.
“Para-snowboard has continued to grow tremendously since its debut at Sochi,” Kevin Jardine, High Performance Director for Paralympic Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding said.
“Our athletes have taken this season as an opportunity to be the faces of the sport and we’re excited to see them rise to the occasion at the World Championships. We’re sending a solid team to Spain with a good balance of experience and new talent, all of which have had success this season.”
The event will be streamed live on the US Paralympics website and the La Molina 2015 event website, beginning with snowboard-cross on 24 February.
Heidi Jo Duce – women’s SB-LL2
Before 2013, snowboarding was just a hobby for Duce who entered the competitive circuit with a snowboard-cross competition and was national champion by year’s end. Duce then competed at Sochi 2014 where she earned fifth place in the inaugural snowboard-cross event. She is the reigning national champion and has racked up four podium finishes at this season’s World Cups.
Keith Gabel – men’s SB-LL2
Gabel has been snowboarding since 2000 and began competing competitively in 2010, training at the National Ability Centre in Park City, Utah. He took third in his first international snowboard competition and went on to win snowboard-cross at the X Games in 2012 and win bronze at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. This season, he was part of the US medal sweep in Aspen, USA, at the IPC Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup and picked up two medals in the new head-to-head format. Gabel also won gold in adaptive snowboarding at the 2014 X Games.
Brenna Huckaby – women’s SB-LL1
Huckaby is new to adaptive snowboarding, beginning competitions with Team USA this year after picking up the sport in 2013. She earned silver in the Netherlands at the Landgraaf World Cup in the banked slalom and two medals at Aspen in the time trials event and the debut of head-to-head. Before her amputation, Huckaby was a competitive gymnast and continues to coach the sport.
Fatu Matagi – men’s upper-limb impairment
This is Matagi’s first year on the national team, competing at the Landgraaf, Aspen and Big White (Canada) World Cups. Last season, he won two bronze medals in snowboard-cross at the Copper Mountain World Cup. Fatagi also teaches snowboarding at the National Ability Centre.
Nicole Roundy – women’s SB-LL1
In 2006 Nicole became the first above-knee amputee to compete in adaptive snowboarding and took home a silver medal from the national championships. Since then she has added six more podium finishes at nationals and was a member of Team USA for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. This season, Roundy picked up medals in Landgraaf, Aspen and Big White.
Mike Shea – men’s SB-LL2
Since moving to Winter Park, Colorado, in 2010 to pursue snowboarding, Shea has become one of the top adaptive snowboarders in the world, winning a silver medal in Sochi and the first ever overall title for the IPC Alpine Skiing Para-Snowboard World Cup circuit in 2014. He has continued to excel this season, remaining perfect in IPC-sanctioned head-to-head competitions, was the first winner of banked slalom in Landgraaf and earned silver in snowboard-cross at the Aspen World Cup.
James Sides – men’s upper-limb impairment
Sides, a Marine Corps veteran has been snowboarding for three years, training at Adaptive Action Sports in Copper Mountain, Colorado. Last year he won the adaptive snowboard title at the USA Snowboard Association National Championships and this season has competed for Team USA at Landgraaf, Aspen and Big White.
Evan Strong – men’s SB-LL2
Strong moved to Lake Tahoe in October 2007 to work at a resort and learn how to snowboard. Since then, Strong has earned every title in adaptive snowboard-cross, including an X Games gold medal, a World Championships title, two world overall titles, 13 world cup titles and a 2014 Paralympic Winter Games gold medal. This season, he earned a medal in banked slalom at the Landgraaf world cup and topped the podium in Team USA’s time trial medal sweep in Aspen.