N.S. native a snowboard threat at Paralympics
Halifax, NS – March 5, 2014
In some ways, seeing para-snowboard in the 2014 Paralympics will be like watching the birth of a child for Tyler Mosher.
The Nova Scotia native, in British Columbia for the past two decades, is one of the founders of para-snowboard in Canada and an advocate for the sport internationally.
Now Mosher, 41, will compete in Sochi starting next week in the sport he helped place in the Paralympic pantheon.
“I’m excited,” said Mosher, who has been in Spain and Switzerland in the past few weeks preparing for Sochi.
Forty-five nations will be in Russia with the opening ceremonies this Friday. There will be 72 medal events in five sports with snowboard being the prominent new addition.
Canada has four snowboarders on the team.
Mosher was born in Wolfville and raised in Halifax. He graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and headed permanently to B.C., where he operates a landscape architecture business in Whistler.
He will race in Sochi on March 14.
He competed in Vancouver in 2010, but in cross-country skiing. He placed seventh.
“I’m doing it this time in a sport where I can win gold,” he said.
He took up para-Nordic skiing to make the Paralympics in that sport, setting goals in a way he could he achieve them.
But he was a snowboarder first. He was the adaptive snowboarding world champion in 2009.
“And I want to continue on and ideally be on the podium on March 14,” he said.
“It’s always great to make something positive out an accident that happened to me. I’m so excited … to have the opportunity to participate in a sport I helped develop.”
His accident may have changed the fate of Paralympic snowboarding in this country and beyond.
He crashed at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort while snowboarding on Dec. 30, 2000. He thought he was headed for a flat spot and ended up landing on his head in in a 30-foot hole.
He broke his back in nine places, destroying his L-1 vertebrae. He required reconstructive surgery.
The prognosis had him spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He left the rehab centre with two canes.
A rugby and football player in his younger days, it took him two years to walk again. He took to yoga and cross-country skiing to improve the overall quality of his life.
“Luckily, my injury was an incomplete paralysis and I was able to gain 60 per cent of my muscles back,” he said. “And in the process of learning to walk again over those two years, I learned snowboarding for the disabled didn’t exist.”
He took up the challenge, working to develop the sport. By 2005, he was back on a snowboard.
“I walk on my heels. I can’t stand on my toes. I can’t jump. I can’t run. There are a couple hundred things I can’t do anymore, but there are several million things I can do.”
In 2007, Canada had a national para-snowboard team for the first time. He won the first Adaptive Snowboard World Cup race in 2008.
“Essentially, everything is new. Ten years ago, there weren’t any organized groups per se to enable children with a disability to snowboard with their friends.”
He said with snowboard in the Paralympics, more funding will be available for the sport at a grassroots level in Canada. He is the founding director of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.
He’ll compete in time trials in Sochi over a border-cross course with the best two of three runs counting.
“This is probably it for me,” he said. “I’m seeing my my baby through to the Games, so to speak. It’s very hard on my body.
“I’m doing a big cross-country ski race next year, but it’s just to hard on my body to be at this level.”
There are political issues surrounding these Games with Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, but Mosher will not be fazed.
“(I have) no security concerns about competing in Sochi,” he said. “I am focused on my competition and doing my best on March 14.”