Leslie ready for second Paralympics 

Snowboarder seeking medals in PyeongChang

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CARLO MION - FLYING HIGH John Leslie is prepared for his second Paralympic Winter Games, which begin Friday in South Korea.
  • Photo by Carlo Mion
  • FLYING HIGH John Leslie is prepared for his second Paralympic Winter Games, which begin Friday in South Korea.

In the four years since the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Russia, John Leslie's life has changed a lot.

The 25-year-old snowboarder moved to Whistler and he feels ready to snag some hardware at this year's Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, which begin on Friday, March 9.

"The last four years have been a lot more preparation," Leslie said. "I'm just going to go and do what I've been training to do and hopefully, that puts me on the podium."

In addition to using his prior Paralympic experience for his own gain, Leslie is also making himself available to the younger set of Paralympian snowboarders who make up the sport's next generation.

"I'm taking advantage of things I've been able to reflect back on and capitalize on," he said. "I've tried to be there as a teammate, if they have questions and I can try to get them excited. Everyone's prepared really well."

Leslie, who lost his left leg below the knee to cancer as a child, took seventh in snowboard-cross in Sochi, where he hadn't set out too many expectations for himself. However, with the steps forward he's taken in recent years, he's ready to push himself forward into medal contention.

"In 2014, I tried to not put a lot of pressure on myself. I was there as a rookie and it was only my second or third year on the national team at the time," he said. "In the last four years, with my training and confidence and preparation, I feel these Games are — I don't want to say serious because I took 2014 seriously — but there's been a lot more prep. The chances of me getting on the podium I would say are a lot greater.

"It's a calm (feeling). I've done all the work. I feel like I could drop into the start gate tomorrow. It's all been done."

Leslie will be competing in two events, as the Paralympics added banked slalom as an option for snowboarders for 2018.

Since landing in Whistler full-time in 2015, Leslie feels his athletic opportunities have ballooned and he's better off for it.

"I've been able to concentrate a lot more," he said. "I'm steps away from a gym. I have a trainer and support staff that are here to help me. If I'm going to put in the hard work, they're going to put in the hard work.

"I've got two beautiful parks I can go up and train on. On a day like today, I can go enjoy the powder. It's a great home hill to have to keep my competitive."

As Leslie has improved, however, so too have his opponents. Pushing himself forward has been tough at times, Leslie acknowledged.

"The biggest goal has been to become a full-time athlete. It's really cool to see para-snowboarding develop to a state now where you have to be fully committed to the program. You're in the gym and you're eating healthy. It's not just something that's part time. If you want to stay competitive with the top nations in the world, this has to be a full-time gig," he said. "It's been finding the balance.

"I don't want to sound unappreciative of the support I get from Canada Snowboard and the Canadian government, but it's a bit of a struggle to get those sponsorships. It's a battle to be that full-time athlete."

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