Whistlers Tyler Mosher is close to earning a spot on the Canadian Disabled Nordic Ski Team after just two years in the sport.
While he acknowledges that he still has a long way to go, his most recent results at European World Cup events are encouraging.
Mosher took part in his first World Cup event last year in Quebec, which he says was a wake-up call. He has changed his training routine and technique after that first race, and has cut several minutes off his race time. He will have to be within 15 per cent of first place to make the national team, and hes getting closer to that mark.
In his first race at Pragelato, Italy, Mosher was 25 th in the 10 km race, and 20 th in the 5 km. He trained for two weeks afterwards, and things improved at his next event in Sorenberg, Switzerland. He finished 10 th in the 10 km after his percentage was applied, but was eighth in real time. His time of 27 minutes and two seconds, after the deduction, was 6:19 behind the world champion.
"If I didnt fall (in the race), which was a stupid mistake, I would have been close to a minute faster," he wrote in an e-mail. "Five minutes is a lot of time to make up, but over five years it is a reasonable goal."
In Pragelato, he was more than 17 minutes out of first place.
In the next competition, a 20 km classic race, Mosher came ninth out of 19 starters in the standing category. It was his first 20 km race, and Mosher said he held back to ensure that he finished the distance.
"All I want to do is get within 15 per cent of first place and then I am on the national team. Should take about one or two more seasons though," said Mosher.
His next race is on March 2 in the Czech Republic, after which he will return to Whistler for a few weeks before heading to Norway for a few more weeks of training in April.
Mosher is classified as an incomplete paraplegic after sustaining a spinal injury in December of 2000. He competes in the standing category, and receives a time deduction in each event based on an assessment of handicap.
Although the nature of Moshers handicap was rare in the past, it is becoming more common due to advancements in emergency spinal cord injury treatment. Until his condition is more accepted by assessors, however, Mosher will face an uphill battle to have the unique limitations of his disability recognized.
"The system is somewhat flawed as there are only recently incomplete paraplegics like myself entering the realm of disabled sport," he said. In one race he was classified in the same category as below the knee amputees.
"Not only should myself and some other athletes be re-classified, but the system should be overhauled since it has been many years since it was developed."
Mosher also used his time in Europe to meet with the Italian director of the 2006 Paralympics and push for the inclusion of adaptive snowboarding in future Paralympics.
Moshers efforts have won him the Harry Jerome Comeback Award, which will be presented at the Sport B.C.s 39 th Annual Athlete of the Awards on March 2 in Vancouver.
Mosher wont be back in time to accept the award but said that it was "pretty cool to be recognized as I didnt event know I was nominated."
Previous athletes to win the Harry Jerome Comeback Award which is presented to B.C. athletes who return to sports after an injury include Fernie alpine skier Emily Brydon and Olympic gymnast Kate Richardson. This year Mosher will accept the award alongside Paralympians John Gibson and Walter Wu, both medallists in the 2004 Paralympic Games.
Because he wont be able to attend the ceremony, Sport B.C. is looking into the possibility of making the presentation in Whistler or Vancouver when Mosher returns from Europe.