In addition to spending the past five years training to compete for Canada in the 2010 Paralympic Games in cross-country, Whistler's Tyler Mosher has also spent roughly the same amount of time fighting to have adaptive snowboarding added to the Paralympic lineup.
The sport was considered too grass roots for inclusion in 2010, with no formalized World Cup circuit or world championship events. But with the support of national sports organizations and a growing number of events and athletes, it's looking good for 2014.
Mosher is Canada's first adaptive World Cup champion, the provincial champion, and after last week he's also the official national champion.
The Canadian Snowboard Federation held the inaugural National Adaptive Snowboarding Championships at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, which were attended by athletes from five nations.
Mosher, who makes a point of entering every para-snowboarding contest in North America, was the winner of the slingshot with a time of 23.38 seconds, almost two seconds ahead of Ian Lockey. Emily Cavallin of Telka, B.C. won the women's title in 27.48 seconds, edging out Nicole Roundy by almost half a second.
Slingshot is becoming the format of choice for the sport, which is basically a time trial on a snowboardcross course. The form is considered an all around test for a diverse range of athletes while combining elements of freestyle and racing. Slingshot also doesn't favour one style of board or boots, and is accessible to a wide range of standing athletes.
While the number of participants is still relatively small, Mosher says everyone came to race.
"The competition is very good, this isn't just people going out," said Mosher. "People have been training, they have coaches. New Zealand is supportive in particular. They don't have a lot of athletes, but they're supporting the one athlete who was willing to spend money and travel internationally to race.
"I had the course memorized, and I had a video of the course, which you need these days to develop a race place and have the fastest line."
Mosher says he has an advantage living in Whistler.
"I can practice turns at any time on nicely groomed runs, I now have a national team coach I can phone at any time to ask questions, I can pop into the Pontiac Race Centre course and do gates at any time I want and get timed," he said.
Mosher is classified as an incomplete paraplegic, partially paralyzed below the waist after sustaining a spinal injury while snowboarding in 2001. He doesn't have the sensitivity to ride the park or moguls, but trusts his skills on groomed runs and the slingshot course.
It will be up to the organizers of the Sochi Games in 2014 whether or not to include para-snowboarding, but Mosher says the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) likes the sport.
"What was unique about this event is that we had a thorough classification of athletes based on IPC classification in similar sports like Alpine skiing," said Mosher. Classification determines what competitive advantages and disadvantages individuals might have that are specific to their disability, and then applies a time deduction to level the playing field. For example, a standing skier missing both legs below the knee, like Canada's Lauren Woolstencroft, would have a larger deduction than another athlete missing one leg below the knee.
It wasn't perfect, says Mosher, but it was a start.
"It's not 100 per cent set in stone, it's definitely a work in progress," said Mosher. "But the more work we do as individuals coming together from different nations, the less work the IPC has to do and the more likely it is we'll be included (in 2014) because all the groundwork has been done."
Mosher has split training between cross-country and snowboarding the past few months, but now will switch focus to cross-country, where he hopes to pre-qualify for a spot in the 2010 Paralympics with a strong performance at an IPC World Cup test event at Whistler Olympic Park in early March.
Mosher is specializing in classic, and is focusing on sprints and the 10 km event.