Sport

‘These athletes are absolutely incredible’: International snowboarders compete at Big White for World Cup

Athletes from all over the world travelled to Big White to compete in the seventh annual 2019 Para World Snowboard World Cup.

“I think we have about 12 countries represented here and right around 50 athletes,” said Canada Snowboard executive director Dustin Heise.

“This event is to make sure that. Our athletes that are on the high performance program and our national team have a place to represent Canada. Have that homefield advantage. And make sure the sport has a place to grow.”

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“It’s about getting to know the story of the athlete,” added Heise. “These athletes are absolutely incredible; what they’ve gone through and what they’re able to achieve through perserverence and just sheer determination. They are athletes with challenges.

“I don’t want to say disabilities . . . and we should be super proud of what they’ve achieved.”

Looking at these inspiring athletes, it’s hard to see the challenges, but they’re there: amputated legs and arms, paralyzed limbs. Even a broken back that didn’t manage to get the best of one Albertan.

“I think it was 1988 when I bought my first snowboard at a garage sale and that was it, man,” said Nate Crowe-Swords. “It’s been kind of my passion and pursuit ever since.”

An accident put Nate’s love of the sport on hiatus. He broke his back while snowboarding in 2006.

“Took me almost a year to learn how to walk again without aids,” said Crowe-Swords.

“Yeah and then through rehab and stuff like that, it took me about a decade to kind of find the confidence to get back on a board.”

Crowe-Swords added “there’s a culture here to have fun and there’s a platform for us to show no matter what’s happened to you, you can thrive.

And thriving is exactly what these athletes are doing today, no matter their impairment.

“I got a brain injury when I was 10; so my left side is paralyzed,” Renske Van Beek.

“Everybody copes so well with their disability and gets the best of themselves. Sometimes you see them struggle. I also struggle. But it’s such a good group and we all make each other stronger.”

“I feel like it’s life. Everybody’s got challenges,” said American snowboarder Brittani Coury. “Everybody has hurdles that they have to get over. But here we all come together as a team.

“It’s not the U.S., it’s not Canada, it’s not team Japan or the Netherlands. We’re here together as adaptive athletes showing the world that we can do everything that everyone else is doing.”

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