Athletes Can – Supporting Canadian Athletes

Tyler Mosher

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Tyler Mosher is not only the number one adaptive snowboarder in the world; he is also a competitive member of the Canadian cross country ski team and 2010 hopeful. As an athlete leader off the field, Tyler has literally put the sport of adaptive snowboarding on the map by lobbying for its recognition as a competitive sport by the World Snowboard Federation and the Canadian Snowboard Federation.

Tyler was born in Wolfville, Nova Scotia but spent the majority of his active childhood in Halifax. “My dad was an athlete and that inspired me to play many different sports”, says Tyler. As he was growing up, he captained football and rugby teams, he played basketball, sailed, skied, and snowboarded. “I have played everything except water polo and lacrosse”, he jokes.

After high school, Tyler was drafted to play football at four different universities. At the time, he didn’t think he was the size needed to be a star player so he decided to go to the University of British Columbia to play on the varsity rugby team instead. After university, Tyler pursued his passion for snow sports recreationally, skiing and snowboarding everyday. “Competition in snowboarding did not interest me until after my injury”, he explains.

On December 30, 2000, Tyler was snowboarding across Blackcomb Glacier when a seemingly innocent snow drift on a traverse turned out to be the edge of a 30-foot hole in the ground. Catching him by surprise, Tyler was flipped upside down and traveled head first down to the bottom. When he hit the ground his helmet dispersed the weight evenly and transported the pressure down his spine until it met the weight coming from his legs and board. His back exploded and broke in nine different places, leaving him completely paralyzed below the waist and permanently disabled.

His spirit on the other hand, was not broken. After his surgery, Tyler was told he would never walk again. After standing for the first time between parallel bars, he refused to accept this prognosis. If there was a chance that the injury wasn’t a complete spinal cord injury and a recovery was possible, Tyler was going to believe in it. If he could stand he could learn to walk. After many weeks of frustration and people telling him that he would have to accept living in a wheelchair; Tyler placed his wheelchair in the corner of his room and decided to get up and fall down, and get up and fall down, until he no longer fell down anymore. This was how Tyler learned how to walk again.

In the end, Tyler’s hard work and determination, combined with the help of health professionals, was successful as he regained 60% of his mobility. He is now only 40% paralyzed below the waist and his spine has been rebuilt with titanium rods and parts of his hip bone. These days Tyler not only walks, but cross country skis and snowboards with adaptive equipment.

Facing this enormous challenge and coming out on top has enabled him to continue to find positive outcomes from difficult situations. It has provided Tyler with the opportunity to inspire and be inspired by others. It was only after his injury that he realized snowboarding was not a sport offered to the disabled. In 2004 he began a crusade to have disabled snowboarding recognized both nationally and internationally as a competitive sport. He decided to approach the local Whistler ski program and suggested they offer snowboarding lessons for individuals with a disability. They agreed to do this and involved Tyler as a Board Member to help facilitate the creation of the program. Six months later, he drew up a proposal and presented if at the Canadian Snowboard Federation Annual General Meeting stating that adaptive snowboarding should be part of their mandate. This motion was passed unanimously, and from that point on, adaptive snowboarding became a part of the Canadian sport system.

In March of 2008, Whistler-Blackcomb, the World Snowboard Federation and the Canadian Snowboard Federation hosted the first ever Adaptive Snowboarding World Cup. Tyler won the event, and he maintains his rank as the number one adaptive snowboarder in the world. He continues to represent Canada internationally, and advocate for the development of this sport, which is currently being considered for the 2014 Paralympic Games.

Tyler took up cross country skiing after his injury as a means of rehabilitation. When Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Paralympic Games, he decided he wanted to represent Canada as a cross country skier. After setting this goal, Tyler quickly established himself as a strong and competitive member of the Canadian Para Nordic Ski team, achieving excellent results in many World Cup events throughout the 2007/2008/2009 seasons. Currently ranked 26th in the World, Tyler is on track and training hard to represent Canada as a top contender in 2010.

Tyler attended his first AthletesCAN Forum in 2008 as a representative for adaptive snowboarding. “Once Sport Canada recognized it as a sport, we started getting invited to these great events”, he explains. Tyler says he found it very exciting and quite an honour to be in the company of such great athletes and sport leaders. He found it useful to be able to interact, share concerns, and find solutions for athlete needs throughout Canada. “This kind of feedback fosters an environment for athletes to use their best abilities to do positive things”, he says. Tyler also found it refreshing and eye opening to see both able bodied and disabled athletes participating at Forum equally and in a respectful environment.

Outside of his many accomplishments as an athlete, Tyler is an award winning landscape designer with a degree in Design for Environmental Planning. In his hometown of Whistler, Tyler is an active businessman owning both TMD Landscapes Ltd. and The Gardener’s Inc.

In his spare time, Tyler gives back to his community as an active Rotarian. Rotary International is the world’s first service club organization, with more than 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio under the motto ‘Service Above Self’.

Tyler also enjoys participating in inspirational public speaking events for individuals of all ages. On top of all of these community activities, high performance sport training and making a living, he makes time to volunteer for the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s ‘Hero Program’, which educates and motivates individuals about the Paralympic Movement; is a British Columbia ‘Act Now’ Healthy Living and Sport Ambassador; and speaks about goal setting for the Esteem Team.

Tyler is extremely passionate about promoting spinal cord research and rehabilitation. He believes that it is his responsibility to make individuals aware that they can overcome hardship through perseverance and staying fit and healthy. “By being the best that you can be, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve”, says Tyler.

Tyler’s goals for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics include a top 12 finish in the cross country sprint and a top 20 finish in the cross country 20km event – all the while continuing to train and compete for Canada in the sport of snowboarding and giving back to his community.