Multi-medal performances by all four team members at the recent world championships in Lillehammer bring hope that Canada can win its first ever Paralympic medal in Para snowboarding at Beijing 2022.
To recap those worlds held this past January, Campbell River, B.C.’s Tyler Turner took gold in the snowboard cross and bronze in the banked slalom, Lisa DeJong of Biggar, Sask. was a double silver medallist individually while Sandrine Hamel of St-Sauveur, Que. and Alex Massie of Barrie, Ont. collected one individual medal each.
They all added gold in their respective team events, which is not part of the Paralympic program.
Hamel and Massie are established riders in the sport and were part of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games team. DeJong and Turner burst on the international scene only in the last couple of years. Dutch and American riders will be their biggest adversaries for medals.
Turner, who lost both legs in a sky diving accident in 2017, earned a World Cup gold late last season before his recent heroics in the LL1 class for lower limb disabilities.
“I hope I can just keep the momentum going here into the one that really matters,” said Turner to the Vancouver Island Free Daily. “I was able to start putting it all together at the end of the (last) season.”
Chris Vos of the Netherlands brings plenty of experience to the table with medals at the last two Paralympics and four world championships. A trio of American riders – Chris Schultz, Tyler Burdick and Thomas Wilson – will also be on Turner’s tail.
Hamel and DeJong compete in the women’s LL2 category. Hamel posted two top-five finishes in PyeongChang and since then she has won four medals at the last two worlds and expects nothing less than a podium in Beijing.
“I don’t go to the Games to participate, and I absolutely want to win,” she told Sportcom. “I am a better snowboarder than in 2018. I manage my stress better and I’ve gained a lot of experience. In these big events, experience is key.”
The top international opponents for both Canadians includes Lisa Bunschoten of the Netherlands who is the reigning world champion in both snowboard events.
Massie is in the very competitive men’s LL2 class which also includes world champion Matti-Suur Hamari of Finland and Ben Tudhope of Australia, who was 14 when he made his Paralympic debut in 2014 and won two medals in Lillehammer in January.
Para snowboard competition at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games will kick off on March 6 with the snowboard cross qualification. The first winners in Para snowboard at the Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park will be crowned a day later on March 7.