If you build it, they will come — at least that’s what organizers of the first ever adaptive snowboarding World Cup event, sanctioned by the Canadian Snowboard Federation and World Snowboard Federation, are counting on.
The race took place on Blackcomb last Friday, with racers making three solo descents of the snowboardcross course — a format that was chosen because it combines elements of racing and freestyle, and because all of the athletes prefer soft boots to hard boots.
Although organizers were hoping for a larger and more international field, everybody knows you have to start somewhere.
“History was made — it was done and done well,” said Christian Hrab, head coach for the Canadian Snowboard Federation’s adaptive snowboard program. “The event was perfect, it was really safe and fast, we had a good course set, and good work on the course, and the athletes rode the best I’ve seen all season.
“It’s a beginning, but it’s also the culmination of two years of work, while it’s also the beginning of another 20 years of hard work. We’ve got the athletes, we’ve got a classification system for all the different disabilities, there are camps and programs, and there are starting to be more coaches. (Adaptive snowboarding) is also getting a lot of attention, because snowboarding is really for everybody — not just the elite World Cup athletes, but also for people with physical disabilities that can still participate and be very good at it too.”
There are plans to host three World Cup snowboarding events next season, including a competition at Cypress Mountain during the World Cup test events in February, and events in Italy and France.
However, while the sport has momentum it’s extremely unlikely that adaptive snowboarding will be included in the 2010 Olympics. But Hrab says things are looking better for 2014, providing all of the organizations involved internationally can work together to increase participation and create an international series.
While that may be discouraging for some athletes, Hrab says his athletes are in it for the long haul.
“I’ve worked with able-bodied athletes with the national team for years, and I can say that these (adaptive) guys are the most positive, constructive, forward-thinking athletes I’ve ever met,” he said. “They’ve overcome some huge obstacles to be here already, which make the little things easier to overcome. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and they know that this is just the beginning and where the sport is heading.”
The next challenge for adaptive snowboarding, which was addressed at a conference and workshop surrounding the World Cup, is networking.