John Leslie was recently named to the 2018 Paralympic Snowboard Team. He's an Ontario native that has been training out of Whistler, BC for the past 6 years. John lost his left leg to cancer as a kid and snowboards on Canada Snowboard's National Para Team. Why tell you about John's story when we could show you. Watch the episode of The Drive we did on John last year below.
Fill those of us who may not know in, what are the Paralympics?
In short it is the games for people living with a disability. That includes missing limbs, people in wheelchairs, and people living with nero complications (CP and MS). “Para” come from the greek word “alongside”. The Paralympics is a competition held “alongside” the Olympic games.
So how does snowboarding fit in all of this?
2012 is when snowboarding was officially named as a Paralympic Sport. The original event was slingshot boardercross. AKA one at a time down a boardercross course. Not the most exciting but as athletes, we were so excited because this would be the biggest stage Para-Snowboarding had ever been on. I was lucky to be on Canada's first ever Paralympic snowboard team. I came 7th at the games with the top Canadian spot. It was a great debut but there has been a lot of positive change since.
What does snowboarding look like for the 2018 Paralympics?
There are going to be 2 major differences. First, there are two events over one. We now have banked slalom and two-man boardercross. It is actually really exciting to watch, it's like a drag race. Second, 3 categories vs one. There is now an upper limb impairment, below knee impairment, and above knee impairment. All three categories will have a Male and Female division. In 2014 we all raced in one category. This makes it much fairer for everyone.
In 2014 Canada sent 4 athletes (3 male, 1 female). We are now sending a team of 7 (5 male, 2 female). Every athlete has medal potential.
[o] Carlo Mion
What does competing in the 2018 Paralympics mean to you?
I have dedicated the past 4 years of my life to becoming the best Para Snowboarder I can be. I have done all the preparation to win a medal in Korea. I hope to set a positive example of what hard work can achieve even with a disability. My message is to encourage people to be their best. This is going to be a great showcasing of our sport to the world.
[o] Carlo Mion
What's good about snowboarding?
Well, I originally started going to the hill with my mom and she worked there. But like most small-town Canadian Lads, hockey consumed most of my time. In high school, I retired to the beer league and that left a big gap in my life. I then started to snowboard because I could do it with my friends, you could enjoy it outside, and there was no set schedule to follow.
I still love snowboarding for the same reasons. I get to express my creativity on a board with my friends, outside. I love it!
What is your message to the snowboard industry?
I am thrilled to see snowboarding grow internationally! Cheer on your nation at this years Paralympics and check out the banked slalom event, it's going to be sick! Get excited because snowboarding is still growing and there is a group of incredible people doing rad things!
Watch John and the rest of the Canada Snowboard Paralympic Snowboard Team compete March 12th SBX and March 16th Banked Slalom
[o] Sam Weston