John Leslie may not have been overjoyed with how the World Para Snowboard Championships began, but they certainly ended more favourably.
The Whistler resident competed in two events at worlds, held for the first time in Canada this year at Big White, starting with an 11th-place showing in snowboard-cross on Feb. 4 before jumping to fifth in the banked slalom on Feb. 7.
After the medals ceremony on Feb. 7, Leslie said he was pleased with how things ended up playing out in the end.
"I was pretty stoked with my riding today. I was fourth for most of the day and then I crept into fifth, which is OK because I was really happy with my riding and with the way the podium worked out," said Leslie, who lost his left leg below the knee to cancer as a child.
It was a nice rebound, he said, from his snowboard-cross event where he said he wasn't quite able to retain the focus he wanted to and bowed out of Saturday's action before even making the round of eight.
"Things didn't come out the best. When you don't have a successful day, it's always good to reflect on the things that didn't make you successful so you learn and move forward," he said. "It was more of a mental game. I had the opportunity to really improve on my snowboarding technically... but mentally, on Saturday, my head wasn't in the game and I had other things on my mind. I wasn't focused on the process of getting to the gold. I was focused on wanting to win the gold because of moving my life to Whistler and being in the gym everyday."
However, after speaking with his support staff in between events, getting a pep talk from girlfriend Emilie, and shifting his perspective, Leslie came to realize that though he desperately wanted to win, so did every one of his competitors. The next step was making and implementing a detailed plan.
"It's not saying 'I'm going to come first.' How are you going to come first? How are you going to approach Turn 1? How are you going to approach the rollers going into Turn 2?" he said.
When looking at the podium on Tuesday, Leslie said he was glad to see a variety of faces, as it will hopefully mean encouraging things for the sport's future.
"We're all catching up. Our sport's becoming competitive and it's really nice to see us getting to the next level where we're within half-seconds of each other. We're within hundredths of seconds of each other," he said. "It's tight racing and that's what we need if we want to get the next generation of kids to see how bad-ass and how competitive this sport is."
Next up, Leslie will return home to Whistler to enjoy the pow before heading to Japan at the end of February to prepare for the Olympic test event in South Korea in early March.
Leslie said he's trying to grow interest in para-snowboarding and encouraged anyone who spots him on the mountain to come say hello. He should be easily identifiable, he said, by his "Lorax moustache."