Gold medal fuels dream of adaptive snowboarding in 2010 

Whistler’s Tyler Mosher spent most of his winter on cross-country skis, training and racing towards his goal of representing Canada and his hometown at the 2010 Paralympic Games.

He’s made huge strides in just a few years, and last month he was presented with the Harry Jerome Comeback Award by Sport B.C. for his efforts. He’s not on the national disabled cross country team yet, but he’s getting closer to the mark they set for him.

At the same time, Mosher has been working towards his other goal – establishing snowboarding as a Paralympic sport for 2010. He is the Canadian Snowboard Federation’s adaptive snowboarding ambassador, and has met with the IPC and VANOC.

His interest is partly from self-interest – Mosher was an avid rider before he became partially paralyzed from the waist down after a snowboarding accident in 2000. He recently started riding again, learning how to compensate for his disability.

Through his work with the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, he also sees the need to bring adaptive snowboarding to other people with disabilities to get them more involved in sport.

"There are a lot of people out there who might not try disabled skiing who might like to try disabled snowboarding," he said. "Anything we can do to increase participation is a good thing."

Mosher still faces an uphill battle, but was encouraged by what he saw at the USA Snowboard Association Championships at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Over eight days, Copper Mountain hosted approximately 1,400 snowboarders of all ages in halfpipe, slopestyle, snowboardcross, giant slalom and slalom disciplines.

With some help from the International Paralympic Committee, the Vancouver Organizing Committee and USASA championship organizers, Mosher helped to put together an adaptive snowboarding category with dozens of participants representing four countries.

Mosher won a gold in the adaptive giant slalom, while finishing ninth overall among men. More importantly, the event attracted media attention. Mosher and the event were profiled on Denver television, and a New York film crew working on a snowboarding documentary talked to Mosher and some of the other adaptive athletes.

Mosher was also recently interviewed by Canadian television personality Valerie Pringle for a show that will air next winter.

"It all came about at the last minute," he said. "I found out I wouldn’t be going to Norway to train (cross country) with the national team, so I started to snowboard again.

"I talked to the IPC and VANOC, and they said if I could find 30 athletes from different countries they would support an adaptive race in Colorado.

"All along I’ve been trying to show everyone that there’s a critical mass of people in adaptive snowboarding who are interested in competing, and I think I found it in the USASA."

Everywhere Mosher and the other adaptive athletes went at the championships they received the support of other snowboarders, as well as offers to help bring adaptive snowboarding into the mainstream.

"There were snowboard coaches from across the country, and everyone said the same thing, that they wanted to be involved, and bring it back to their home mountains. Some of them had never seen adaptive snowboarding before, and they were really impressed – especially with the girls, who were faster than the guys," said Mosher.

Mosher is hopeful that next year Canada will be able to host an adaptive snowboarding event, possibly in connection with a disabled skiing competition. He will also work to ensure that more adaptive athletes and countries show up for next year’s USASA championship.

"It’s a great event, and just what adaptive snowboarding needs to get the word out there," he said.

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