Canada bolstered by new faces in pursuit of 1st Paralympic snowboard medal
Team includes 5 new riders as it hopes to reach podium
Canada will be relying on a cast of mostly new faces as it goes for gold in snowboard at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month.
On Wednesday, Canada Snowboard announced the seven-rider team that will compete in para snowboard cross, as well as banked slalom, which is a new addition for the discipline.
All but two of the athletes will be making their Paralympic debut at the 2018 Games, with John Leslie of Arnprior, Ont., and Michelle Salt of Calgary, Alta., having been part of Canada's team at the 2014 Sochi Games, when the sport was included for the first time. Canada failed to medal at those Games.
The squad's new Paralympians include:
- Curt Minard of Vernon, B.C.
- Alex Massie of Barrie, Ont.
- Andrew Genge of Oshawa, Ont.
- Sandrine Hamel of Saint-Sauveur, Que.
- Colton Liddle of Wawa, Ont.
"Words cannot describe how it feels to be headed to my first Games," Massie said in a press release.
"Growing up an athlete in Canada, I always looked forward to the watching the Games because it was an opportunity to see our best compete on the world stage. For me to now have the opportunity to follow the Canadian flag into the stadium at PyeongChang 2018 overwhelms me with a sense of pride. No matter the outcome, I just hope to make my family, friends and country proud."
The team is riding high off the success of one of their most successful World Cup seasons, which was highlighted by Minard taking second in the overall para snowboard cross Crystal Globe rankings, and Salt finishing in third in the standings for banked slalom.
Canada also came in third in the overall Nations Cup standings, marking the first time it has reached the podium.
Salt said she is hoping to improve upon a ninth-place finish in snowboard cross at the 2014 Games.
"I went to Sochi with limited expectations," she said.
"I knew I still had a lot of work to do to be on the podium, but was ready to take it all in. Now, I'm going prepared and with years of experience and hard work under my belt. I look forward to flipping that switch and seeing if all this experience and hard work will pay off."
Pushing the limits
Minard said he is prepared to compete on the world stage.
"I've dreamt of this moment since I was a child and my goal is to show Canadians and the world that great things happen when you push limits and believe in yourself."
Leslie, who finished in seventh in snowboard cross in Sochi, is hoping to step into a leadership role at his second Games.
"I have done all the preparation needed to podium and am excited to compete against the best in the world," he said.
"I believe my previous experience has made me a better leader and more confident going into Pyeongchang. I hope sharing my previous experience at the Games has 'stoked' my teammates out and they know they can come to me with questions."
Para snowboard cross action is slated to kick off on March 12, while banked slalom makes its Paralympic debut on March 16.