Mosher taking on cross-country marathons

Birkebeiners break up Whistlerite's snowboarding schedule

Tyler Mosher's busy season has taken him all over the globe in the past few weeks, and Whistler's own Paralympian still has plenty of ground to cover this winter - especially on his skis.

In addition to competing at the Winter X Games and at the World Cup level in adaptive snowboarding in 2011, Mosher is also taking on three Birkebeiner Nordic races, which are 55-kilometre marathons modeled on a famous Norwegian event.

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He completed the first one, the Canadian leg, in Edmonton on Saturday (Feb. 12).

"Only nine people have done all three of these races in one year, so me and a few friends are doing just that," Mosher, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a snowboarding fall on the Blackcomb Glacier more than 10 years ago but has since regained 60 per cent mobility in his legs, said while on a rare stop home Monday (Feb. 14).

"It was great. It was an event I just wanted to finish and I improved my time from the last time I did it in 2007 by almost 40 minutes. That's pretty good over 55 (km), and I think I did fairly well, all things considered.

"I hadn't really trained 100 per cent for that - I've been concentrating on my snowboarding, and knowing that I've got two more races to go, I didn't want to overdo it and hurt myself."

Mosher will race the American 'Birkie' on Feb. 26 and later take on the original in Norway in March.

The 38-year-old has been busy on his snowboard lately recording some great results as well.

Mosher said that his first X Games experience was an intense one, as the Aspen course remained true to the spirit of the annual event. It was the first time the X Games held a standing adaptive class for snowboard cross.

"The course was built amazingly. I've never seen anything so big and so well-built," he said, noting that there were lots of jumps to deal with compared to a World Cup race.

"This course checked the confidence level. I went out there and did my best. Unfortunately, I fell after the first jump and I came fourth, but it was great. I know what I can do; there are obviously limitations to my disability, but I think if I wanted to train to be able to do some of that, I can. Whether or not it's the intelligent thing for me to do is something altogether different, because I'm not getting any younger.

"They're called the X Games because they're extreme. It's all about confidence and everything is built perfectly if you hit it with speed and don't wipe out. But if you wipe out, you're going to be in a world of hurt."

Shortly after the X Games wrapped up, Mosher was off to France for the first Para-Snowboard World Cup event of the season. He came away with a pair of silver medals for his efforts there.

"You play to win, but I'm pleased that it was very competitive," said Mosher, the 2009 adaptive snowboarding world champion. "The guy who quite handily won the X Games just edged me out on both World Cups by the smallest fraction of a second."

The winner was decided by a combined time from each athlete's best two of three runs.

"I wiped out on both of my first runs for both World Cups but put together pretty good runs on the second," he said.

The World Cup series resumes at Lake Louise in April and Mosher said there may be another in New Zealand in August.

"There's not a lot of pressure on me this year, coming off a Paralympic year where there was a lot of pressure to make the Paralympics in a sport I'm not necessarily the best at," he said, hopeful that snowboarding will be added to the roster of sports in Sochi.

"This year is more for fun, for the adventure and for the success of accomplishing some goals like completing three 55 (km) cross-country ski marathons."

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