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Born to Compete

From the Prairies to the slopes of PyeongChang, Curt Minard proudly represented Canada at the Paralympic Games

Curt Minard’s dreams while growing up in Weyburn were much like the dreams of other young boys growing up on the prairies, with visions of pursuing a career in the NHL and making it big in the sports that he loves.

Minard has gone through some traumatic times in his life, including an industrial accident that cost him a hand and nearly killed him, but he hasn’t let that slow him down or prevent him from pursuing his dreams to compete for Canada in snowboardcross at the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I always had a wild imagination and grew up idolizing our Canadian athletes, primarily the Canadian NHL legends. I believed at a young age that I was going to play in the NHL, but reality checked in and I was just so happy to be able to play sports with all my close friends in Weyburn and abroad in Saskatchewan,” he said.

“I have had the honour to play sports on the world stage prior to the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and it changed my life, and now I have the opportunity to do it on an even bigger platform, and for that I am forever grateful,” he added.

The story of how he ended up in PyeongChang goes back to 2008, when as an electrical worker at a new job in B.C., he was electrocuted as he and a crew were working on a 25,000-volt overhead power line. His co-worker came into contact with an energized 14,400-volt line, and as Curt was nearby working on a grounded conductor, a current of 5 amps went through his body and exited through his hands, and began cooking his internal organs, heating them up to about 400 degrees Celsius. Normally, a current of 0.5 amps, or 50 milliamps, can kill a person. The electrocution caused him to lose his left hand while he had burns on his right one.

Through the quick response of onlookers, doctors and nurses at Invermere Hospital, and the STARS air ambulance, they were able to save his life, and he began on a long road to recovery, including dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Once he was on the road to recovery, part of that journey involved trying out for the national standing amputee hockey team, as this was the sport that was his top passion as an athlete. He made the amputee hockey Canadian team, and won a gold medal with the team in Finland in 2012.

A hard second for his favourite sport was snowboarding, and he approached Canada Snowboard about becoming involved in the sport as an amputee. Once he got involved with the sport, he quickly rose up in the ranks of para-athletes, and ended up being the Canadian national champion two years in a row.

He won a bronze medal a year ago in a pre-test World Cup event at the venue in PyeongChang, and in races since, he placed third in a World Cup SBX race in Finland, and placed second at Big White in Canada. He had finished third in qualifications, then he had a bad spill which resulted in a black eye, but he raced in the final and was able to win silver. He also won a Crystal Globe after his second full season on the national team for the World Cup SBX races.

“At the Pre-Test event World Cup Finals in 2016-17 last March, I was able to hit the podium last year at this event, so I am using that success to hopefully fuel my Paralympic dreams,” said Minard, referring to a race held on the PyeongChang course where he will be competing in the Paralympics.

Asked how he found the course as a competitor, Minard replied, “We found the temperature to fluctuate vastly so it could be ice or slush depending on the day. We know that the courses are going to be fast, technical and a venue to showcase Para Snowboard to the world.”

Asked about being a snowboarder, Minard said, “I think it’s such an amazing high-energy high-adrenaline sport. It’s not just a physical sport, it’s a challenge mentally. You have to be quick thinking.”

He added he grew up with the sport, along with his first passion, hockey, and said, “I was pretty well a natural fit for the sport, and I’m trying to push myself to overcome, not just my disability but to show all Canadians we can achieve great things when we put our minds to it.”

Just before heading to South Korea, he spent some time in rigorous training, and said just prior to leaving, “Training is going great! I’m getting my legs under me after a few long travel days. I’m mostly working on high speed carving and snowboard balancing.”

He arrived by shuttle at the Olympic Village on March 8 where he received his team Canada kit and prepared for the opening ceremonies.

As Minard has experienced winning medals at a number of high-profile events in the last few years, he was asked if the excitement of competing and winning is just as amazing and fresh each time.

“Yes, the anxiety, nerves and digging deep to showcase your abilities is never the same at any competition, but the feeling of excitement after success is an adrenaline rush like nothing in this world. I was born to compete and am very honoured to have had the opportunity at every event I have been a part of to date,” he said. 

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