The journey for elite athletes to reach the peak of their sport comes with many challenges and bumps in the road. For Tyler Mosher, the journey has been nothing short of inspiring and rewarding.
On Dec 30, 2000, Mosher began his afternoon like any other day, snowboarding on B.C.'s Blackcomb Mountain with friends. He saw a snowdrift he wanted to hit, assuming the drop was roughly 60 to 120 centimetres deep.
Instead, it was more than nine metres deep, and by the time Mosher realized it, it was too late.
X-rays taken after his fall showed he had broken his back in nine places; the bone had gone right through his spinal cord and he was paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors said he would never walk again.
Fast forward to 2008, when Mosher was not only walking, but winning. He won gold at the first ever adaptive snowboard World Cup and was crowned world champion in the same event in 2009. In 2010, he competed at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver in cross-country skiing. Today, he is training to compete in para-snowboarding when the event makes its debut at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
“It’s a great honour to be able to compete in the first ever games for snowboarding,” Mosher told CBC. “It really will allow children with all disabilities to have the opportunity to compete in snowboarding and participate in snowboarding at the grassroots level by now having it in the Paralympic Games.”
For Mosher, the opportunity to compete means more than just a chance to make history: he’s in it to win it.
“Now that we’re going to the Games, to be quite honest I feel like I’ve already won gold to a certain extent. But I haven’t,” he said. “I’m going to the Games because that’s my intention, because I play to win.”
Throughout his career he has had countless chances to give up and throw in the towel But for Mosher that was out of the question.
'There’s no way that with my disability that I should be able to snowboard.' - Tyler Mosher, Canadian para-snowboarder
“What I’m able to achieve should be celebrated and sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s worth celebrating and taking in the moment,” said Mosher. “To see these great feats of athleticism both at the Olympic level and at the Paralympic level is not only entertaining for everyone else.”
And the chance to overcome challenges keeps the fire inside him burning strong.
“What it really does is it pushes the ability, like there’s no way that with my disability that I should be able to snowboard. Or cross-country ski to the level that I was able to do.”
As he prepares to make history in Sochi, Mosher is able to sit back and reflect on the journey he has been on to get to this point in his career.
“The process is great,” Mosher said. “It’s not so much the gold medal that you remember at the end of the day, it’s remembering having to get out of bed at five in the morning or being so exhausted or being stuck sleeping at an airport. Going there and walking through the crowd at your home Games (Vancouver) in 2010 with 55,000 people at the opening ceremonies.
"I mean, these are moments that nobody can ever take away from you and they’re moments that you truly remember.”