Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

TRAINING TERRAIN – Michelle Salt, pictured, will be competing for Canada in the Paralym pic Games for the second time after being the only woman on the team in Sochi.

National Paralympic team trains on Mount Sima

Although it may not be open to the public yet,

By Dustin Cook on November 8, 2017

Although it may not be open to the public yet, Mount Sima has been home to Canada’s para-snowboard team for the past eight days as they prepare for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

The team is completing their third year of pre-season training camp in Whitehorse before leaving today. The seven-member team will be heading to the Netherlands for two world cup events in banked slalom. They will then head to Finland for two more events in the other para-snowboard discipline of boardercross.

“We have two official disciplines in para-snowboard, head-to-head boardercross so just two at a time through a boardercross course and one of the most popular snowboard events now which is banked slalom,” national team head coach Mark Fawcett said. “It’s a very popular event throughout the world, it is not in the able-bodied Olympics so we’re really proud to have it as a Paralympic discipline.”

Fawcett competed in the Olympic debut for snowboarding in the 1998 Games in Nagano.

He then became coach of the able-bodied national snowboard team before transitioning to the para-snowboard team after the 2014 Winter Olympics.

This will be the second time para-snowboard is part of the Games, debuting in 2014.

Michelle Salt was the only woman to represent Canada on the team placing ninth in the boardercross event.

“It was a great experience obviously to represent Canada and make history becoming Canada’s first female Paralympic snowboarder,” Salt said.

In 2014, four athletes – three men and one woman – represented Canada and this year Fawcett said they hope all seven members will qualify and be able to wear the red and white at the Paralympic Games in South Korea.

“It’s cool to see even within the last four years how much snowboarding has progressed and how much everyone’s stepped up their game,” Salt said.

Salt, who lost her leg above the knee in a motorcycle accident at the age of 26, started snowboarding at the age of 13 and didn’t let the injury stop her. Eight months after losing her leg, she was back on the mountains competing in the sport she loved and competed in the Sochi Games just two and a half years after the accident.

Returning on the team with Salt is 25-year-old John Leslie who finished seventh in the men’s event in 2014.

He said competing for Canada in 2014 in the sport’s debut was an amazing experience with support from the entire country.

“The Canadian Paralympic committee did a really good job making sure we had all the comforts that we needed, all the information that we needed,” he said. “I kind of felt like Dorothy on the yellow brick road – I was just along for the good time.”

Following the Games, Leslie said he had to make the decision if he wanted to pursue this full-time in preparation for the next Olympics.

“I decided I did really want to commit to this and throw everything I had into it for the next four years,” Leslie said.

In their third year at Mount Sima, Fawcett said a lot of the training terrain is designed with the staff to create banks and berms that reflect a typical competition course in the two disciplines.

Salt, who has been up to Mount Sima with the team all three years, said the courses and training grounds provided couldn’t be any better for pre-season.

“Everyone at Mount Sima does everything that they can to ensure we have a great experience,” she said of the designed courses. “They turned this mountain into our playground. There’s a ton of really cool features and it really highlights everything that we do in competition.”

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