08 October 2020

How I became a Para Snowboard Athlete

By James Barnes-Miller, Para Snowboard Athlete

 

For as long as I can remember I have skateboarded with my brothers and was always told I would enjoy snowboarding. Eventually I went on a trip with some friends and fell in love with the mountains and the sport and wanted go back every year.

A few years later I was on another trip and got chatting with Owen Pick and Ben Moore who had just been competing at an IPC (International Paralympic Committee) banked slalom event. The team was just starting to be set up and they invited me on a training camp, where are coach at the time said he thought he could get me to the Paralympics if I was willing to put in the hard work. Sure enough, I ended up competing at the Winter Paralympic Games, PyeongChang 2018.

There are two events in Paralympic snowboarding, we have Boardercross and Banked Slalom. I love both, but boardercross is my favourite because I get a bigger adrenaline rush as there are three other people on the race course with you and you’re trying to go as fast as you can over different obstacles and some big jumps.

For snowboarding you need to be mentally strong and be able to overcome fearing the course and rationalise with yourself to go for it. For me, I get nervous on the first day of practice, so whilst we are inspecting the course I try to break down each obstacle and compare it to something I have done before.

The morning of the race I’ll get up and stretch and foam roll. Whilst I’m doing this I’ll run through the course in my head. After that I try not to think about it until I’m at the top of the course as it’s tiring to constantly thinking about and I don’t want to over think it.

Once I’m at the top of the course I’ll warm up and have a couple of minutes of quiet time to think over the course again. Normally after my first run I realise I was worrying about nothing.

I really try to avoid trying to find out who I’m racing as I want to focus on myself instead of worrying about other people. It doesn’t matter who I’m racing I’m going to try and race my own race. Normally after my first run I realise I was worrying about nothing.

On the physical side you need to be super strong as well as fast to be able to move your legs over obstacles to generate speed.

In terms of my inspirations, I need to mention Amy Purdy because her and her husband Dan Gale are doing great things for the sport. They run a programme called Adaptive Action Sports which gets athletes up to the level to compete at World Cup level and join the American team. They also organise the adaptive race at Dew Tour which is massive for the sport.

My favourite moments on snow have to be riding pow with my friends, obviously the Paralympics was very special, but nothing beats having an epic pow day!

If you’re looking to get more involved Para Snowboarding I’d say do it, it’s great - you get to travel to some awesome places to race. The Paralympic snowboard community is a family, everyone looks out for each other and helps each other.

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