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Whistler's Mosher and Leslie post top-12 finishes in Sochi

Local riders pleased to be part of snowboarding's Paralympic debut

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Whistler riders Tyler Mosher and John Leslie both posted top-12 finishes in their historic Paralympic snowboard race in Sochi on Friday, March 14.

Leslie rode to a seventh-place result and Mosher finished 12th to lead the Canadians competing in the sport's inaugural appearance at the Paralympics.

"It's great to be part of the first-ever winter Paralympic Games with snowboarding after 10 years of hard work developing the sport," said Mosher, who was a key figure in getting the sport added to the Paralympic program in Sochi and beyond.

Rossland's Ian Lockey placed 21st in the men's race, while Calgary's Michelle Salt finished ninth in the women's event.

Para-snowboard riders take three runs down a snowboard cross-style course, with the fastest two runs counting towards a combined time. Leslie got progressively faster over his three runs and clocked a time of one minute, 51.88 seconds, which put him 8.27 seconds back of American winner Evan Strong.

"The experience was amazing," said the 21-year-old, originally from Arnprior, Ont. "Everyone rode to their best, I was with a pile of friends in the beautiful sun, doing what I love to do. Couldn't have asked for a better way to end things.

"I was very happy with the way I rode and the way everything worked out."

Mosher also used his second and third runs to calculate his final time of 1:59.80. He had a slight slip-up in his final trip down the course but posted the eighth-fastest final run at 1:00.11.

"I wish I raced better, but I did my best given the race course design and the conditions," said Mosher, the 2009 para-snowboard world champion. The 41-year-old said before the race that as an incomplete paraplegic with limited mobility below the waist, he'd have a tough road to the podium, since there is no factoring system in place for para-snowboarding, leaving him at a disadvantage. The majority of the athletes ahead of Mosher were riding with a limb deficiency.

"Our Canadian athletes stepped it up," said Canadian head coach Candice Drouin. "We trained really hard all winter and I could not be happier with the results. Sure, a podium is always nice, but I'm super happy with the way they all performed."

U.S. riders Mike Shea and Keith Gabel took the men's silver and bronze, respectively, to make it an American podium sweep. Dutch racer Bibian Mentel-Spee, a training partner of Mosher's, claimed the women's gold.

The Paralympics continue until Sunday, March 16.

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