Curt Minard has already represented and won for Canada in one winter sport.
Now, the Vernon amputee wants to do it again in something completely different.
Minard, who won gold playing for Canada’s national amputee hockey team in 2012 at the World Standing Amputee Ice Hockey Championships in Finland, wants to wear the maple leaf in 2018 at the Paralympics in Korea, competing in snowboardcross.
“Korea is two years from now, so that’s a possibility,” said Minard, 37, who lost his left hand, amputated at the wrist, in an industrial accident in Invermere in 2008. “I’d love to be in the Paralympics. I feel I have that competitiveness and mental preparedness to get there.”
Minard has already impressed national team coaches.
Last month, the B.C. Hydro foreman/power line technician made his snowboard cross debut competing at the International Paralympic Committee’s Nor-Am Cup and World Cup races at Kelowna’s Big White mountain.
Minard won gold at the Nor-Am Cup in snowboard cross and bank slalom. In the world cup events, he finished top-10 in all three, coming sixth and seventh in snowboard cross and sixth in the slalom.
This was after getting off a plane from a Caribbean vacation in St. Martin with his partner, former ski racer Heidi Johnson, and breaking his prosthetic in a practice run tumble.
“When I won gold (Nor-Am) I came out of the gate with the mindset I just wanted to have fun and put it all out there,” said Minard. “If I won, fantastic. “If I didn’t, it was a good experience.
“When I came across the finish line, which was after a huge jump,” I thought to myself ‘you smoked this jump and when I landed and crossed the finish line, I’m thinking I just won.’ I was pretty proud for the support from Heidi and from people along the way. A lot of people have always been there for me.”
After winning gold with the national amputee hockey team, Minard told Heidi he still wanted to compete on a national and global platform.
Minard contacted the Para-portion of the Canadian snowboard program, letting them know he was interested in competing at a high level.
The program invited Minard to some camps, including one with the national team at Big White in January.
“I went out for half-a-day and ripped it up with those guys and met coach Mark Fawcett,” said Minard. “They invited me out to this event (Nor-Am and World Cup) to try it out. It was an unbelievable experience. I never thought going from the beach to standing on a podium with a gold medal was doable.”
It was while living in Invermere – home to world-renowned Panorama Ski Resort – in 2006 that Minard started snowboarding. After his accident, he returned to Panorama in ‘09 and started doing a lot of snowboarding with his splints.
“I was super cautious because my hands were in such bad condition but for two years, that’s all I did,” said Minard. “That’s when I got to be confident as a rider. It was the one happy thing I could do that I didn’t really need my motoring skills to do. I’ve been in Vernon since 2010 and I ride at Silver Star at least 30 times a year.”
Johnson has been a big supporter for and of her beau.
She gave Minard pep talks before his races in Kelowna, telling him to believe in himself. She talked to an employee at Stussi Sport on Silver Star Road about waxing snowboards and laid down the perfect wax on Minard’s basic powder snowboard to help him win in the Nor-Am Race.
“Curt’s going up against guys who have custom-designed boards and he comes out on his basic board without the proper bindings,” smiled Johnson. “To do this well on basic equipment is kind of funny.
“The national team coaches were like, ‘OMG he nailed it’ at the Nor-Ams. They were impressed and came up to me and said ‘what does he want to do? How far is he willing to go?”
The answer, said Minard, is the sky’s the limit if you believe in yourself and if you have the physical and mental capacity to achieve that.
Next up for Minard is the Sports Experts Speed Nation 2016 at Ski Chantecler in Quebec March 21-26. This is the national championships that gathers the Canadian rising stars in speed disciplines.
Minard shares his story around the country with his other gig as a motivational speaker through his company, Limitless Communications Ltd. He hopes to inspire others with disabilities.
“I do look at myself as a role model for kids and young adults,” he said. “There’s nothing that stops us from achieving greatness because we have a disability. It’s a mindset. I like to be that voice to inspire.”