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Para snowboarder back in the medals at U.S. nationals

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By Andrew Mitchell

The U.S.A. Snowboard Association national championships, held last week at Northstar at Tahoe, are the biggest snowboard events in the world with close to 500 participants of all ages and abilities.

For the past three years, the USASA has also included events for adaptive snowboarders, a growing sport that the Canadian Snowboard Federation is hoping to include as a demonstration sport in the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

Whistler’s Tyler Mosher, who sustained a spinal injury in 2001 while riding on the Blackcomb Glacier, is one of the athletes hoping to have the opportunity to represent Canada in para-snowboarding events. He’s also working hard to qualify for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in cross-country skiing and biathlon, just to be sure, but considers himself a snowboarder first and foremost.

As a result he’s been heading to the USASA championships for the past three years, watching the number of participants in the para-snowboarding categories grow year after year.

Still speedy, last year he won gold in snowboardcross, giant slalom and slalom events. This year he took silver in the men’s parallel slalom, parallel giant slalom and snowboardcross, and took a bronze medal in halfpipe.

In all these events he finished behind Rossland’s Ian Lockey, who won gold medals in five adaptive snowboarding categories including the slopestyle event. Like Mosher, Lockey is considered an incomplete paraplegic, with deficiencies below the waist resulting from a spinal cord injury. Both can stand and walk, but don’t have the full range of muscles or motion.

On the women’s side, Emily Cavallin of Smithers placed second in parallel slalom and giant slalom, as well as third in snowboardcross. Cavallin is 17 and a below the knee amputee.

“This was a great way for our adaptive athletes to finish off the season,” said Danny Buntain, sport development coordinator for the Canadian Snowboard Federation. “Canada is a leader in adaptive snowboarding and the performances by these athletes demonstrates that our focus on this program through clinics and training is moving the sport in the right direction.”

For Mosher, finishing second to Lockey is nothing to be ashamed of.

“He’s a really great snowboarder, and he already has about a hundred days this year on the mountain,” said Mosher. “Because I’ve been spending all my time cross-country skiing and in Europe, I’ve got about five days, so I’m pretty happy where I finished.

“The turnout was just huge this year. It’s been building every year, but I couldn’t believe how many new faces were out there. That’s what we all want, to grow the sport to the point where they have to put it in the Paralympics.”

The halfpipe was a new event this year for Mosher. “It was really fun, and the pipe was great. I’ve never really done it before. I tried it out last year, but never practiced so I’m pretty happy I could get a bronze. The guys who are in the pipe all the time are at a totally different level than I am… but it felt good to be out there snowboarding, and doing something different.”

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