When Whistler's Tyler Mosher headed to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup opener at Laandgraaf, Netherlands — an indoor event in one of the largest indoor ski areas in the world — his goal was to win.
In the end he had to settle for two second place finishes in the race, which featured a large international field.
While it's a good start, Mosher was disappointed that the rankings were based on raw time — none of the athletes got time bonuses based on their classification of disability. For example, a below-the-knee amputee would get a smaller time bonus than an above-the-knee amputee, while Mosher — who represented Canada at the 2010 Paralympics in cross-country skiing and is a partial paraplegic — is usually classified between the two.
However, instead of applying time bonuses, organizers divided the field into categories for upper limb impairment and lower limb impairment, which means Mosher was up against snowboarders who had a distinct physical advantage.
"I was there to win, I got two silvers," said Mosher. "The system changed a bit, and I would have had a gold and a silver if the IPC used the same system as last year (used by the World Snowboard Federation).
"Of course it affects me, because gold is what it was all about and the system wasn't level. I'm more disabled than a below-the-knee amputee, and an above-the-knee amputee is more disabled than me."
Mosher hopes that the IPC will change the system to recognize classifications, providing a level playing field for athletes with different levels of disability.
"As it stands now, the IPC's head medical classifier has determined that it might be best to leave it open (with no classifications) and have (the 2014 Paralympic events) as an intro event, and go from there for 2018."
Mosher said he will need to be more consistent and about three per cent faster to finish on top. As well, he said it could ultimately depend on the course designs — with his disability, he tends to do better on fast courses with a lot of edging than on courses that are really technical or have large jumps.
The format of the race was slingshot, although the indoor arena wouldn't allow for the construction of a proper snowboardcross course. Still, Mosher said it was a challenging, fast fall-line course that was demanding of riders.
Carl Murphy of Wanaka, New Zealand took the win in the opening slingshot race, followed by Mosher and Merjin Koek of the Netherlands. There were no other North Americans in the top eight.
In the second race, Mosher placed second to Murphy once again, while Byron Raubenheimer, another Kiwi, picked up the bronze.
This is the first year that IPC has sanctioned the World Cup para-snowboarding events, with the World Snowboarding Federation running international races in the past. However, the IPC and Sochi 2014 organizers approved para-snowboarding to the schedule for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games back in May, and as a result the IPC, the governing body for the Paralympics, stepped in to sanction the World Cup tour.
Mosher, who runs a landscaping company during the summer months, is planning to attend every race this year while working on his equipment. He's considered about 40 per cent paralyzed below the waist and has worked with Burton Snowboards and others to create custom bindings and equipment to assist him on course.
Canada Snowboard and Own the Podium have provided funding to hire a coach for the para-snowboard program with former pro Candice Drouin taking on the job.
While Mosher's goal is to finish on top of the tour standings this year and to represent Canada in the Paralympics, he says the whole point of racing is to encourage disabled kids to snowboard, and "make something good out of something that happened to me that was bad."