Tyler Mosher now has a good sense of what it will take to become a Paralympic champion one year from now.
The Whistler snowboarder finished fifth in the men’s lower limb impairment class at the test event in Sochi, Russia, last Thursday (March 7) on a course that Mosher likes and feels he will be competitive on during the 2014 Games.
“Now that I know what the course is like and what I need to train for, I’m quite happy with my ability to perform on that course,” Mosher said Tuesday (March 12) from Toronto. “I believe I have an opportunity to win gold and that’s what I went there to find out.
“I’m happy with fifth, but of course I’m always hoping for first place.”
Riders use the best two times from three runs in para-snowboard races and Mosher was among the top five finishers in each of the three heats. His combined two-run time clocked in less than 2 ½ seconds back of American winner Evan Strong, as the top five athletes were well ahead of the rest of the field.
“It was extremely close and you pretty much had to put down the perfect run,” said Mosher, 40. “The course is perfect for the level of snowboarding we’re at right now without classifications.”
But the lack of classifications, which have been used in World Snowboard Federation races in the past, will also make it more difficult for Mosher to step on a Paralympic podium next winter.
Mosher, who has 60 per cent mobility in his legs after an accident riding on Blackcomb more than 10 years ago, will be competing against all riders with disabilities or amputations affecting their legs, making the field much wider.
“I just have to go out there and be faster,” he said. “The main thing is that the event is going to be in the Paralympic Games.
“It’s a bit frustrating to go from having that extra factoring to my advantage, where I would have won gold in Sochi if there was factoring. It’s a harsh pill to swallow, going from events in the summer where I was a gold-medal hopeful to (now) a podium hopeful. But it’s something I have to deal with, accommodate through training and be intelligent in the race with.”
Mosher said it was important to get a sense of the atmosphere in Russia before arriving at the Paralympics next year. Mosher, who competed in cross-country skiing for Canada during the 2010 Paralympic Games, said it’s looking like Sochi will be a fantastic host when para-snowboard makes its debut as a medal event.
“It’s a beautiful resort; it’s quite spectacular,” said Mosher, whose race wasn’t hampered by the poor weather conditions seen weeks earlier during the Olympic test events. “We saw some of the Olympic venues when we were acclimatizing … and I’ve never seen anything similar before. Quite frankly, it’s unbelievable there.
“There are thousands upon thousands of people working and building and I’m sure the Russians are going to host a great event.”
Mosher said plenty of credit goes to those supporting his dream of reaching the podium in Sochi next year, as travelling to compete in the IPC-sanctioned events this year has been expensive — he went immediately from Sochi to another race in Slovenia and finished sixth on Sunday (March 10).
Though not far off his placing from Sochi, Mosher said the long days of travel from Russia and a longer course in Slovenia made it difficult for him to put on his best performance in that race. However, the next races are a little closer to home, as Big White Resort will host World Cup races on March 28 and 29.