Adaptive snowboarding makes its case for 2014 

Organizers want to add more sports to Paralympics

The International Paralympic Committee is looking to expand the number of events in its winter lineup and is looking closely at the possibility of adding adaptive snowboarding.

At the conclusion of the 2010 Paralympics, IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez acknowledged interest in hosting additional events and said he expected to receive submissions from groups championing snowboarding, standing hockey, bobsleigh and luge and long track speed skating.

"We are interested because the Paralympic Games needs more sports in the program to make it more attractive, and to produce a bigger impact," he told reporters.

Canada Snowboard hosted an event in Whistler to discuss the current state of the sport and the way forward to get the sport into the Paralympics. Participants included national Paralympic committees, representatives from the IPC and adaptive snowboarders.

Of all the proposed sports, snowboarding is one of the most promising, having hosted World Cup events since 2008 and a world championship for the first time in 2009. At the most recent snowboard nationals, the organizers hosted a combined adaptive snowboarding World Cup and national championship.

Whistler's Tyler Mosher, who competed in the 2010 Paralympics in cross-country skiing, is the current world champion in the sport of slingshot, which is essentially a time trial down a snowboardcross course. He also won the previous World Cup races and the recent national championships.

If snowboarding is added to the 2014 Paralympic schedule Mosher says he will continue to compete in the hope of representing Canada once again.

"Of all the sports they're looking at for 2014, I've heard snowboarding is looking the best," he said. "From what I understand we have to write a proposal and explain how it's going to be done, where the sport is currently, how we're going to develop the sport and make it work for 2014 and how it progresses for 2018.

"Everyone is saying it's attractive. We have the numbers and now it's just a matter of selling it."

While slingshot was the format that all of the snowboard organizations could agree on, combining racing and freestyle snowboarding into one package, the IPC is reportedly interesting in adding snowboardcross and racing as well as slingshot.

"It attracts the youth and keeps the Games vibrant, and maybe even attracts potential sponsors," said Mosher.

Canada Snowboard is leading the charge to have adaptive snowboarding in the lineup for Sochi.

"There are a number of steps Canada Snowboard is taking to include adaptive snowboarding in the Paralympics," said Tom McIllfaterick in a press release. "We will continue to host World Cup events like the one (that took place) in Mont Tremblant, and continue to work with other countries around the world to build capacity for the sport. We will also refine the sport's rules and procedures so that they fully meet the standards of the International Paralympic Committee. We believe that it is possible for Adaptive Snowboarding to appear at the Paralympic Winter Games as early as 2014."

Standardizing the sport also means fine-tuning the classification system used in other adaptive sports to snowboarding - essentially factoring the particulars of an athletes' disabilities to level the playing field in competitions. A system has already worked at World Cup events, but it will need to be evaluated by the IPC as well.

As for recruiting, adaptive snowboard advocates can point to growing participation at an expanding number of events, as well as the fact that the addition of snowboarding to the Paralympic Games will act as a recruiting tool for adaptive snowboarders who don't currently compete and people with disabilities looking for sports.

The future of adaptive snowboarding was on display at the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Paralympic Games when 15-year-old Zach Beaumont, an adaptive snowboarder, lit the torch at B.C. Place.


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