March 6, 2014 (ISN) – Finnish snowboarder Matti Suur-Hamari will enter the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games on a wave of support after winning the public vote for the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athlete of the Month for February.
Suur-Hamari, 28, received 43 per cent of the public’s vote on the Paralympic.org poll after winning the last race at the 2014 IPCAS Snowboard World Cup Finals on 12 February in La Molina, Spain.
Thanks to his performance at the Finals, Suur-Hamari finished third overall in the World Cup standings this season, behind the American duo of Mike Shea and Evan Strong.
“In La Molina, everything came together for me and I had two really good races there,” Suur-Hamari previously told Paralympic.org. “It was fitting that I won just before Sochi, so now I’m even more excited about going to the Paralympics and seeing what happens.”
He has been training with Finland’s able-bodied snowboard cross team this season, helping him vault to 3,860 points in the World Cup standings and a victory in the Finals.
The left-leg amputee will be fighting Shea and Strong for podium spots when snowboard makes its Paralympic debut in Sochi on 14 March, and he will also be facing stiff competition from the USA’s Keith Gabel and New Zealand’s Carl Murphy.
Suur-Hamari, who works as a sound engineer for a private Finnish TV channel, has started attracting attention in the past couple of weeks for his road to Sochi story.
He first tried snowboarding recreationally in 1999, and after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2009, he took up para-snowboarding competitively in 2012. He immediately fell in love with the speed and jumps involved in racing.
Other nominees for February’s IPC Athlete of the Month included: French alpine skier Marie Bochet, Australian alpine skier Toby Kane, Italian alpine skier Alessandro Daldoss, British sailor Alexandra Rickham and Tunisian wheelchair racer Walid Ktila.
Nominations for IPC Athlete of the Month are compiled from submissions by National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) and International Federations (IFs).