Para-skiers set sights on Nationals and beyond

Photo - B.C. Adaptive Snowsports
Photo – B.C. Adaptive Snowsports

Many of B.C.’s top para-skiers travelled to Sun Peaks to take part in a multi-day Building Our Best training camp during March to prepare for the Canadian National Championships, set to be held in Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec, from March 26 to 29.

And local athletes Pramod “Promo” Thapa, Mel Pemble and Blair Jones are generating plenty of buzz this season.

According to Sun Peaks Alpine Club para-alpine coach, Jim Knowles, the local skiers have big opportunities ahead of them.

“Promo has around 100 days of skiing in this season. He picked up a first place win in his category in the Over The Hill Downhill race at Silver Star in February.

“We’ve made fundraising a huge focus for Promo this season, and we’re aiming for a very intensive racing program next season ahead of the Paralympic Games in 2018 and 2022,” Knowles said.

Mel Pemble – Photo by SPIN

At just 14 years old, Mel Pemble is coming off a couple of huge wins this season, picking up gold and silver medals at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George in February.

Pemble has cerebral palsy, which mostly affects the right-side of her body. She started skiing around five years ago and relocated to Kamloops last year to focus on her skiing.

“My balance is a bit off, my right leg isn’t as strong, and I can’t hold a ski pole in my right hand,” Pemble said.

Despite her disability, Pemble’s billed as an up-and-coming star in the sport.

“She’s just killing it,” said Knowles. “She kicks arse.”

B.C. Adaptive Snowsports member Ben Thompson was in Sun Peaks for the training camps, and said he had high hopes for Pemble — a current prospect for the provincial team.

“If she keeps skiing the way she is, she won’t be in the B.C. team very long. She’ll be going straight to the National team.”

Blair Johnson is also riding high after his success in the Over The Hill Downhill race, where he placed first in his category. A mountain biking accident damaged Johnson’s spine, and he turned to sit-skiing as an outlet. He spent two years on the B.C. development team before taking a break to focus on his schooling.

While Johnson won’t be heading to the Nationals in Quebec this year, he’s continuing to focus on his racing career.

“I just started back into racing last season. In the long-run, I’d like to go to the Paralympics.”

Ben Thompson said the Paralympic dream wasn’t outside the realm of possibility for any of Sun Peaks para-skiers.

“There’s lots of good stuff happening in Sun Peaks. They have a very strong program for disabled racers and it’s awesome to see it growing. I’m very excited about it.”

You can keep track of Promo and Pemble’s results at the Canadian National Championships at the Alpine Canada website.