Tyler Mosher has taken his skiing to another level this year, training hard through the summer, slimming down to a weight he hasn’t been since he started high school, and attacking the leaders in his para cross-country category with everything he has.
The hard work has paid off. At recent cross-country events in Lake Louise and Canmore, Mosher has placed first in the 10 km and second in the 5 km to earn a spot with the national para-Nordic team when it heads to Europe in January. He has another World Cup qualifier event at Sovereign Lake this weekend, which will help his standings with the team.
For Mosher, an incomplete paraplegic with limited mobility below the waist, the difference this year has been strength.
“I’m seeing three years of training paying off,” he said. “I’m able to compensate for my disability by becoming a lot stronger and working on my technique so it’s as close to the proper technique for a standing skier as I can do. There are still certain movements that I can’t do, but right now I’ve done everything I can do to compensate in other ways.”
This is Mosher’s second winter with the para-Nordic 2010 team, a development program created to prepare athletes for the Paralympics. As a result the team has been paying for training and travel, and Mosher has had the opportunity to train during the summer.
In August he spent time in New Zealand, where he entered a loppet and won his age category against able-bodied skiers in a 21 km free technique race and placed third overall among classic skiers.
He also spent time training at an indoor, on-snow track in Finland, skiing alongside the top Nordic skiers in the world.
Now that he has qualified for this season’s World Cup competitions, his next goal is to finish with a time that is less than 30 per cent behind first place — a milestone set for Mosher by Cross Country Canada to pre-qualify for the World Cup team in 2008-09.
While he is confident that he can meet that goal, and earn a spot to compete at home in 2010, he is less confident that he will be able to medal in his current classification. In disabled sports, athletes are put into categories based on the nature of their injury with a time adjustment that reflects their personal limitations. Because Mosher benefited from a relatively new type of treatment for spinal cord damage, stemming from a snowboarding injury in 2001, he has only partial paralysis below the waist. As a result he has been grouped in a category of standing skiers that can use prosthetics that may in some cases boost performance.