World Cup: Finland

After the World Cup event in the Netherlands the team travelled to Pyha Finland for a two week training camp followed by the first Boardercross World Cup of the season. Pyha is in a very remote area of Northern Finland. It is in the Arctic Circle. To get there you fly into a city called Rovaniemi, which is where Santa Claus’ Village is then it is a 2 hour drive to get to the resort. Its an exotic place in winter, the sun never fuilly rises, so you have to acclimatise to live in the darkness for 24/7, which is harder then it seems.

Unfortunately for the training camp, Finland was experiencing there worst start to winter in around 60 years. It was already early December and there was no natural snow on the ground and temps were unnaturaly warm for the time of year. No lifts were operating at the resort but the coaches were able to build a technical start section that allowed us athletes to have worthwhile training. I worked on keeping my board flat over features, moving fast and matching the full course and I was able to test out new start gate techniques, that is a major weakness of mine.

This World Cup would make history as it would be the first ever 4 man race in Para Snowboarding, adding some extra pressure to all the athletes. 

The World Cup course was amazing considering the lack of snow that the resort had. I enjoyed it, but it was quite flat and hard to gain speed. This didn’t favor me, as I’m small and don’t have much weight to drive me down the hill. I had to experiment different linesd in training where I could find and hold speed.

The first competition was already a World Cup. My qualification run went alright and I qualified in 3rd but I would of liked my fastest time to be closer to fastest qualification, held by my teammate Matti Suur-Hamari, being about 3 seconds ahead of me, followed by my other teammate Bubz Massie. It was great because all three athletes of our team qualified 1,2 and 3. We had a quick break as the officials cleaned up the course and then it was time to race. First time running 4 man heats, I knew I was nervous and excited, I think all the competitors were. The Semi final heat, I was able to get an early lead and kept my position out front throughout the course to the finish, closely followed by Bubz. The big final was moments away, a packed race consisting of myself, Bubz, reinging Paralympic Gold Medalist Matti and reinging Paralympic Silver Medalist Keith Gabel from the USA. The start was intimidating and a thrill thats no other feeling can compare to. We pulled out and Matti got the wholeshot and gained an early lead, I had the inside line to the first turn so I snuck into 2nd after the start but I could feel the other close on my tail. I was trailing Matti trying to catch him whilst defending my position. 3 quarters of the course was completed and Matti had a strong lead and I was still in 2nd. Coming in to the 2nd last turn, you have lots of speed as there is a long steep section before. I took a inside line to keep the others from overtaking. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bubz go past the outside of the course, I knew he was disqualified and all I was thinking is crossing that line as fast as I can. The race was far from over, Keith Gabel was coming into the final turn hot was going for the overtake on me and just clipped my board with his nose, he went down pretty hard. I was just able to save myself from falling over, as my hands and body went absolutely everywhere. I finished 2nd and more importantly in one piece. I was so happy, as I was able to stay on my feet in high pressure moments of chaos, achieving my first ever World Cup Medal in a boardercross competition.

The 2nd World Cup competition, I managed to get a far superior qualification time, over 2 seconds faster then my time the day before, but wasn’t able to up my position, qualifying 3rd again, in the same order. The Semi final was quite like the day before, instead of me in 1st, it was Bubz followed by me. It was deja vou, as the big final was against the same athletes. I had a slower start, with Matti getting the wholeshot again and I was sitting in a close 3rd behind Bubz and Keth was very close behind me. The race stayed like that till the 2nd last turn again. I was coming in very fast and catching Bubz, I saw him take an inside line trying to block me. In a split second I made the decision to try a risky move, take a wider line in that turn and then overtake Bubz having the inside for the last turn.  Unfortnately it didn’t pay off as I got caught in soft snow around the 2nd last turn and couldn’t hold my edge. I was just able to hang on and stay on my feet throughout the turn, but then took a heavy slam on my face in the drop down entry to the last turn. I finshed the race in 4th with a couple bruises.

Stoked that I was able to take a medal home from this event and it was pretty amazing to be apart of a history making competition, showing that the sport is always growing.

Until next time,

Ben

Carve Your Way

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Ben Tudhope