The Road to Sochi . . .
This upcoming March, during the 2014 Winter Paralympics, the sport of snowboard-cross will make its debut. Through a string of awesome serendipitous events I was given the opportunity to be a part of the first-ever women’s US adaptive boarder cross team and try for a chance to represent my country in Sochi.
For those of you who don’t know my story, I am a ‘below the knee’ amputee on my right leg. I was born with a birth defect known as Fibular Hemilia which left me without my fibula and the majority of my foot and ankle bones. I had what little of a leg I did have, amputated at 18 months and have been going strong ever since.
I first learned to snowboard at an amputee camp in Park City, Utah when I was 13 years old. I have been a pretty avid recreational snowboarder ever since. Up until last winter that is. In the early winter of 2013 I was introduced to the sport of snowboard cross [SBX]. For adaptive riders a SBX race consists of three time trials through a race course that consists of jumps, berms, and other various technical features. Riders run through these [on average] minute-long courses as fast as they can. The results are calculated by combining the two best times with the third tossed out. It is a wildly stressful and exhilarating experience that has brought my outlook and attitude toward snowboarding to a whole new level.
My first season of racing was a whirl wind of relearning how to ride, training air awareness and learning the rules of the crazy sport. Last year when my competition season finally rolled around I won an unexpected bronze at my first competition in Copper Mountain, CO; followed quickly by another third in South Lake Tahoe, CA. I found myself invited to join the world cup circuit with the hopes of earning a spot on the first US National team. I continued to perform well last season and ended up earning a spot on the first United States of America snowboard cross team.
The last few months have gone by in a blur. We have been traveling all over the world training and preparing for the season leading into Sochi. We have been everywhere from Mt. Hood, Oregon to Hintertux, Austria for team camps; when not training with the national team I have found myself on the snow five days a week in Winter Park, CO.
Two weekends ago marked the beginning of my competition season with back to back world cups in Copper Mountain. The excitement leading up to the event was indescribable. Everyone from all over the world had been working incredibly hard in anticipation of the upcoming games and it was time to find out where we all stood. After two days of competition I came out with a bronze on the first day and silver on the second. I shared the podium with 2 lovely ladies from Holland, Bibian Mental (1st on both days) and Lisa Bunschoten (2nd on day one and 3rd on day two).
In the past few months the women’s field of competition has stepped its game up significantly and is now more competitive than ever. We had our second round of World cups this past weekend in Big White Canada. I once again walked away with silver and a bronze. Bibian took back to back gold medals and my teammate Amy Purdy walked away with the medals that remained. With The Paralympics quickly approaching we have one more round of world cups in La Molina, Spain at the beginning of February. I cannot wait to see the excitement that the upcoming competitions bring!
See you in Sochi,
Heidi Jo Duce