While many of us were hauling ourselves out of bed this morning, the world’s best para snowboarders were taking on the Sochi Paralympic snowboard cross course for the very first time.
Gold medal favourite Bibian Mentel from the Netherlands cruised into first place, a good 9 second ahead of French silver-medallist Cecile Hernandez. Amy Purdy wasn’t far behind, securing bronze for the USA.
Bibian was training to compete in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. However, she soon discovered she’d contracted an aggressive bone cancer and her right leg had to be amputated. Amazingly, Bibian was back on her board just a few months after the amputation. She’s spent years campaigning to get snowboarding into the Winter Paralympics. Now at 41-years-old, she’s finally succeeded.
In the men’s heat, the Americans dominated the podium by winning all three medals. Evan Strong powered into first place, followed by Michael Shea and Keith Gabel. It was a close call with Evan beating Michael Shea by just 0.57 seconds.
Hawaiian native Evan used to be a professional skateboarder. However in 2002, he was hit by a car while riding his motorbike and had his left leg amputated below the knee.
It’s a mesmerising watch. The speeds are certainly slower than the Olympics and the kickers and berms are smaller. Riders don’t race one another, instead it’s judged on timed runs. Still, it’s an amazing sight – and there’s a fair share of bails. some within metres of the finish line. You’re just sat, willing them to make it down.
We all take for granted the fact that our legs work. We can strap in and ride as we please. It’s events like para snowboarding that remind us how strong human beings can be – and even when it seems impossible, you never have to give up riding.
sochi paralympic snowboard cross results 2014
1. Evan Strong (USA)
2. Michael Shea (USA)
3. Keith Gabel (USA)
1. Bibian Mentel (Netherlands)
2. Cecile Hernandez (France)
3. Amy Purdy (USA)