By David Gold

Bibian Mentel_02-05-12May 2 - Two Para-snowboard events are to be included for the first time ever on the Alpine skiing programme for the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games, less than a year after the sport's bid for inclusion was rejected.

Sochi 2014 had rejected last year's proposal by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and World Snowboard Federation (WSF) to include Para-snowboard and today's announcement by the represents a major success for the sport.

With the inclusion of Para-snowboarding, 72 medal events will now be held in total at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics, by comparison, 64 medals were handed out at the last Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada in 2010.

The sport joins downhill, Super G, super combined, giant slalom and slalom on the Alpine skiing programme.

It will be one of seven new events at Sochi, including women's ski jumping, team events for figure skating and luge, ski halfpipe for men and women, ski and snowboard slopestyle and biathlon mixed relay.

Para-snowboarding is hugely popular worldwide and the IPC's chief executive Xavier Gonzalez hailed the decision to introduce it in time for the Games in two years' time.

"Snowboard is a fast paced and extremely exciting sport and we are delighted that it will form part of the alpine skiing programme at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games," he said.

"I would like to thank Sochi 2014, NPC Russia, Russian Government, the World Snowboard Federation and the IPC Athletes' Council for all supporting the inclusion of these two extra medal events.

"It is important for the growth of the winter Games that there are more sports and more medal events to contest.

"I am particularly looking forward to see how athletes perform in this exciting new discipline and believe it will prove extremely popular with spectators and TV viewers alike."

Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of Sochi 2014, said: "Snowboarding is a young and exciting sport and one which is attracting new audiences and participants everywhere.

"Its inclusion in the Paralympics programme will give a further boost to the promotion of Paralympic sports across Russia and highlights the opportunities that sport provides to everyone.

"It also reflects our determination to deliver the most innovative and successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in history."

Para-snowboarding has held World Cup events since 2008 and the World Championships were held for the first time in 2009 in Cardrona, New Zealand.

Evan Strong_02-05-12
American Evan Strong (pictured above) won gold at this year's two day Para-snowboarding World Championships – a competition featuring 10 countries – held in Orcières 1850 in France.

Compatriot Mike Shea was also on the podium at that event, with New Zealander Carl Murphy sandwiched between the two United States athletes.

Among the women Bibian Mentel (pictured top) of the Netherlands won gold, with American Amy Purdy and Italian Sara Dorigatti coming second and third respectively.

WSF President Gunnar Tveit said: "The WSF are thrilled by the decision to include Para-Snowboard in the Paralympic programme of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

"Together with the IPC, the WSF National Snowboard Associations, and riders, we have been working towards this goal for the last six years.

"Knowing that the riders will have the chance to compete in the sport they love in 2014 is rewarding not only because the athletes will be recognised for their hard work but also because the inclusion of Para-snowboard in the Sochi 2014 Winter Games will provide an unprecedented level of exposure to the sport."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
October 2011: Mosher prepared for uphill task to get Para-snowboarding in the Games
August 2010: Para-snowboarding moves big step closer to inclusion for Sochi 2014