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ParaSki4Europe: I simply love snowboard!

Parasnowboarders competed during the last day of ParaSki4Europe. There appeared at the start 13 athletes, among them the only blind parasnowboarder in the world.

Parasnowboard was one of the four disciplines of European Winter Para Sports Event, Poland 2020 programme, the event organized by Polish Paralympic Committee at Czarna Góra Resort and Duszniki Arena. On Saturday, after 3 training days, the athletes started the competition. Fortunately, these weren’t the medals that most mattered, but the fact in one place, at one time there met “riders” from different sides of Europe, both experienced ones, and those who have picked up snowboarding lately or it was their first or second snowboarding season. Important and not always frequent was that there appeared also female athletes.

 

I am happy there are so many girls. I think it is a result of the effort made by IPC (International Paralympic Committee) and Agitos camps organized only for women. All the effort to encourage women to pick up snowboard were senseful. I am also happy there are more and more snowboarders not only abroad but also in Poland – assumes Małgorzata Kelm, parasnowboarder coach for years involved in popularization of this discipline.

Indeed, it is enough to look back at 2012, only 8 years ago to learn, Kelm’s athlete Wojciech Taraba (Paralympian from Sochi and Pyeongchang) was the only Polish snowboarder. Now there are about 30 of theme, and more and more are interested to pick up the discipline.

 

 – There are more and more of us, also thanks to the Adaptive Snow Initiative, every year we try to involve 7-10 new riders – said Wojtek Taraba, also present at ParaSki4Europe. There come amateur riders and the experienced ones. We came a long way and we move forward. I hope we will walk even faster now.

Monika Kotzian was also one of those talented athletes present at ParaSki4Europe. Last year she made her crucial steps in the world cup. She picked up snowboard as a child. When she was spending winter holidays in the Alps she learn about parasnowboard, saw the images of the disabled riders. She sent a message to the Polish Paralympic Committee asking about the discipline. She was really lucky as she was offered Agitos Foundation Camp. She decided to take part in it, started to work on technique and since last year she has been representative team member.

 

I try to get as much as I can. The first successes came only last year, I was 3rd in bank slalom, later even 1st. Last year during World Championship I had occasion to try border cross. I managed to win and to beat the Chinese girls, who are really strong – said Kotzian.

 

She also emphasizes it is very important many new faces can be seen at ParaSki4Europe. Despite Polish female athlete there also came the Hungarian Lila Fekete and Nevena Nesic from Serbia. For Nevena ParaSki4Europe was the first competition ever and she was enhanced to pick up parasnowboard by her colleague, Paralympic paraathletics multimedallist. She was very happy to meet many young athletes at ParaSki4Europe and so was Lila Fekete.

 

It was really a great experience, I would like to come back here next year. I have been practising snowboard only for half a year. ParaSki4Europe was absolutely a great week of fun. You have fantastic slopes, I had many trainings and took part in international competition.

 

Which as assumes Taraba, can be a great chance for those who start their parasnowboardin adventure. The athletes could check themselves on closed slopes with experienced coaches and physiotherapists accompanying them.

 

– Fantastic initiative, I hope ParaSki4Europe will be held every year – adds Taraba.

 

 

Wojtek Taraba is an athlete who practiced snowboard before he lost his leg. Although at the beginning he couldn’t realize it would be possible to come back to sport, he managed to do it. As Taraba says “coming back” is not easy, but it gives much satisfaction, which is crucial for Paralympic movement. Also in parasnowboard there are people with different types of disabilities however only at ParaSki4Europe we could see an athlete with visual impairment, the blind Ben Shawn from Great Britain.

 

Ben’s life history could serve as a film scenario. Former British soldier and great snowboarder lost his sight due to bomb explosion in Iraq. Everybody can imagine how much his life changed – in all aspects. Two years ago he met a soldier who decided to become his guide. James Hossell is  the British Army Snowboard team member. There is no couple like this in the world. During ParaSki4Europe for the first time in their life they had opportunity to compete.

 

 – We’ve been working together for the last two seasons. We spent 12 weeks on snow. Ben is my first athlete, I am his first guide. Still I serve for the Army. A pal of mine told me there was a blind guy who wanted to practice snowboard. Asked me to become his guide and I agreed. I love challenges and with Ben every day is a challenge, although the most difficult is his sense of humor.  

 

Everybody at Czarna Gora resort was overwhelmed by the blind parasnowboarder and his guide. They have to take everything into account – the temperature, the slope, the weather. However, there is no doubt in their case sport has become a tool to come back to life which Ben loved.

 

 

I came back to snowboarding although I knew nobody blind was doing that. I simply love snowboard. It is great I can compete at ParaSki4Europe as they could add my category. That is really fantastic because it exemplifies real social inclusion. When I tell someone I am blind, they say it is impossible to do snowboard like that. And we prove yes, we can, it is possible.

 

The blind ex-soldier had tears in his eyes and wide smile on his face while listening to the British anthem during the medal ceremony. When the anthem ended the audience applauded the athlete and his guide with ovation. Maybe somebody in the world will see the way Ben rides his snowboard. Maybe Ben will inspire someone. Then ParaSki4Europe would gain further, great history.

 

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European Winter Para Sports Event, Poland 2020 is the first ever non-comercial event of this kind in winter sports for athletes with disabilities. It was held in Czarna Góra Ski Resort and Duszniki Zdrój Cross Country Center from 24th of February to 1st of March. They competed in four disciplines – para alpine skiing, para – snowboard, cross country skiing and para-biathlon.

European Winter Para Sports Event, Poland 2020 is co-funded by Erasmus+ Sport Programme. Erasmus+Sport “Not-for-profit European Sport events “programme has, with very specific aims, to support volunteering in sport; social inclusion through sport; gender equality in sport and health-enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA). The event is also financed by Ministry of Sport and PKN Orlen, Sponsor of the Event.

 

The Honorary Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda.

 

European Winter Para Sports Event, Poland 2020 have the media patronage of TVP Sport, TVP3 Wrocław and niepelnosprawni.pl website.

 

 

Photos: Adrian Stykowska/Polish Paralympic Committee

 

More information at www.paralympic.org.pl ParaSki4Europe and

 

https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus-plus/actions/sport/not-for-profit-european-sport-events_en.

 

 

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