The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has made the exciting announcement that two new medal events for Para-snowboard will be included in Alpine Skiing Program for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Not only does this bring the number of medal events at the Sochi 2014 Games to 72, but it is also the first time for a Para-Snowboard event to be included in the Paralympic Program.
Xavier Gonzalez, the IPC’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Snowboard is a fast paced and extremely exciting sport and we are delighted that it will form part of the Alpine Skiing program at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
“I would like to thank Sochi 2014, NPC Russia, Russian Government, the World Snowboard Federation and the IPC Athletes’ Council for all supporting the inclusion of these two extra medal events.
“It is important for the growth of the winter Games that there are more sports and more medal events to contest. I am particularly looking forward to see how athletes perform in this exciting new discipline and believe it will prove extremely popular with spectators and TV viewers alike.”
The first time you see the term, you might think para snowboarding is some type of parachute driven snowboarding discipline. Actually, para snowboarding was formerly referred to as Adaptive Snowboard. The sport provides a competitive outlet for hundreds of athletes around the world with physical disabilities such as spinal injury, cerebral palsy, amputation, and visual impairments. Para-snowboarders compete based on their functional ability, allowing athletes with different disabilities to compete against each other. While the discipline is still in its infancy, its numbers are growing leaps and bounds. Its inclusion in the upcoming games will undoubtedly lead to even greater proliferation of the sport.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, said: “Snowboarding is a young and exciting sport and one which is attracting new audiences and participants everywhere.
“Its inclusion in the Paralympics program will give a further boost to the promotion of Paralympic sports across Russia and highlights the opportunities that sport provides to everyone. It also reflects our determination to deliver the most innovative and successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in history.
The road to this decision was not a direct route. The establishment of these two new medal events took many years, and the cooperation of many dedicated individuals and organizations including the World Snowboard Federation.
Gunnar Tveit, World Snowboard Federation (WSF) President, said: “The WSF are thrilled by the decision to include Para-Snowboard in the Paralympic program of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games. Together with the IPC, the WSF National Snowboard Associations, and riders, we have been working towards this goal for the last six years.
“Knowing that the riders will have the chance to compete in the sport they love in 2014 is rewarding not only because the athletes will be recognized for their hard work but also because the inclusion of Para-Snowboard in the Sochi 2014 Winter Games will provide an unprecedented level of exposure to the sport.”
While it’s still flying under the radar, this past February in Orcières 1850, France hosted a two-day World Championships featuring 40 Para-Snowboarders from 10 countries.
USA’s Evan Strong took gold, finishing ahead of New Zealand’s Carl Murphy and fellow teammate Mike Shea. On the women’s side, Bibian Mentel of the Netherlands took gold, as silver went to American Amy Purdy, and bronze went to Sara Dorigatti of Italy.
The February event held a great deal of significance, as it was the first time a sitting category was introduced to the discipline. This opened up the competition to riders with physical impairments such as paraplegia and bilateral lower extremity amputation.
It was a wildly successful competition and a precursor to the upcoming Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, which are set to take place between 7-16 March 2014. Vancouver, Canada staged the last Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The event featured 502 athletes from 44 countries who contested 64 medals. Germany topped the medals table winning 13 golds. Also included in the Alpine Skiing program are Downhill, Super G, Super Combined, Giant Slalom and Slalom events. Nordic Skiing will see a number of Biathlon and Cross Country events contested whilst other medal events will take place in Ice Sledge Hockey and Wheelchair Curling.
Qualification criteria for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will be published on Monday 28 May 2012. As we get closer to the next Winter Games and news of these new opportunities spread, more and more adaptive athletes will emerge to take their shot at winning a gold medal for their country. For further information, please visit www.sochi2014.com, and www.worldsnowboardfederation.org