OTTAWA – Sandrine Hamel admits that she prefers to punch in tickets for major Games rather than to trade punches with opponents.
That’s been a big trade-off for Hamel since she made a decision to focus on Para snowboarding. Her rise in the sport has been nothing short of phenomenal and she capped 2018 with two fifth-place finishes at the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Hamel has also kept fit by training at a local boxing club near her hometown of St-Sauveur, Que. Before she became a competitive snowboarder, that training included bouts against able-bodied opponents. Today she still follows the regular boxers training such as punching bags and sparring partners… but no more bouts.
‘’Today it’s mostly for my cardio,’’ said Hamel, about her boxing cross training. ‘’I don’t go in the ring anymore. I wasn’t sure if I liked that part of it anyway. It keeps me in shape and I think it’s good to do different sports to vary the routine a bit.’’
The 20-year-old Hamel was born with a double major scoliosis and a corrective surgery resulted in a paralyzed right leg.
Snowboard was a winter activity for her as a youngster but she wasn’t aware it became a Paralympic sport in 2014.
‘’I discovered Para snowboard when I went on the CPC website (in 2015),’’ she said. ‘’I just clicked on the sport that I knew how to do, so it was a bit of a coincidence. I just followed the steps I needed to get involved.’’
She was developed through the CPC’s NextGen program and by 2017 she competed at her first world championships. A year later it was the Paralympics.
‘’My life really changed when I was named to the Paralympic team,’’ she said. ‘’It was like an atomic bomb for my friends and family. It’s not everybody that gets that opportunity. I was a bit surprised at first but it all worked out in the end and it was a great experience.’’
Hamel is leaning towards studying sports psychology in university.
‘’I think that’s because I actually work with a sports psychologist and I find that fascinating,’’ she said. ‘’I love studying the mindset of other athletes right before they are about to perform in the most stressful moments. I don’t think everybody can do that.’’
For now however Hamel is dedicating the next four years to be on the podium at the 2022 Games in Beijing.
The last two seasons have shown she is on track for more success. And with her boxing background, who dares doubt her?