X marks the spot: Rosslander Ian Lockey helps take adaptive snowboarding to prime time
With one fat plank, a heart full of passion and a life lived around the mantra of having fun and pushing the limits, local rider Ian Lockey will be heading to Aspen on a mission this month as he represents Rossland at the X-Games. As he takes to the course in the first-ever X-Games adaptive boarder-cross event he’ll be one of six pioneers taking their sport into prime time. While there are hopes of growing the sport internationally to the point of inclusion in the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, the short term hopes of Rossland’s own Winter X athlete are simple survival on what will certainly be a high level course under the bright lights of an international television audience.
I caught up with Ian earlier this week as he was just returning from training in an able-bodied FIS NORAM boarder-cross in Big White to chat about his upcoming trip to X.
I just got back from Big White yesterday. I went out to the race for training and competed in the able bodied NorAm FIS race. It was probably the gnarliest track I’ve ever ridden. I didn’t qualify for the main event, but I wasn’t really expecting too. I just wanted to get some practice in and some training on the track.
You’re heading to the X-games in a couple of weeks to compete in their first adaptive boarder-cross. Tell us a little about how that came to be?
They have an adaptive class at the Summer X Games: skateboarding and moto-cross. There is a guy down there that is doing the skateboarding big air jump in his wheelchair. He’s doing a double back flip in his wheelchair over the mega gap jump. It’s not even cool [laughs] that’s just crazy, but it just shows how the adaptive side is growing and not holding anyone back.
This year they’re having an adaptive boarder cross. Because we have been through the international Paralympic Committee they have accepted it as a sport. They are going to back us and if we can prove to the Paralympic Committee that it is a world-wide competitive sport then we get to go to the Sochi Olympics in 2014. At the moment the Paralympics is only five sports: sit skiing, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, sledge hockey and wheel chair curling. There’s no snowboarding so hopefully we’ll get in. The kids out there want to go snowboarding so we’ve got to show them that it’s possible.
Break it down for us. What differentiates an adaptive boarder-cross from the able-bodied competition?
They call it adaptive because we’re basically competing in the same sport as the able bodied crew. We just adapt our equipment or adapt our style to make it work.
When it goes to the Paralympics there will be a handicap system. It sounds a bit weird that handicapped guys will get a handicapped system, but it will be the same as the Paralympics. [They] currently do the handicapped system to even the field where different disability levels are handicapped essentially to make it fair. At the X-Games, though, it’s just going to be a six man, man on man race. It’ll be just straight up the same as it is for the able bodied boys except that we are lucky enough to be riding on the mono-ski and sit-ski boarder-cross course.
They lay a slightly different track than skier cross and boarder-cross for them because, like us, they can’t make the huge jumps. I’m kind of freaking out a little bit thinking I might turn up there and find out there is still a 50 foot gap jump in the course or something we have to do.
Is there a regular adaptive boarder-cross series out there currently, or is everyone currently competing in able-bodied events?
Last season the BCSA (British Columbia Snowboard Association) had an adaptive class at all of the boarder-cross races they held. This year there is an adaptive World Cup on the first of February in France and then another World Cup at Lake Louise on the 15th of April, but apart from that there’s not much. That’s why I was up to Big White; to practice with the able-bodied boys.
Do you know the other guys in the field for the X-Games event? Have you raced against them before to see how you stack up?
I have raced against pretty much everyone who will be there. There is another Canadian guy from Whistler who has the exactly the same disability as me. He’s a standing paraplegic. That’s what my disability is. I’m 50% paralyzed from the waist down. The other four guys will be from the states and they are training in Park City. I think most of them will be below the knee amputees. They are riding on prosthetics. I’m standing, obviously. The way I have adapted is by putting a third strap on my bindings like the old Craig Kelly three strap binding system. The others are riding the same boards as everyone else and they just have a prosthetic on their back foot.
What’s your goal going into the event?
I know I can beat all of these guys. I have beaten all of these guys before. The only time they beat me was last year when I was carrying a major injury, but my main objective in going down there is to have fun and promote the sport and just put it out there for everyone to see. We want to show these kids in the War Amps Association that they can do it and show everyone that there are no excuses and that they shouldn’t let anything hold them back.
I’m most excited just to be there and be a part of it. I do care about how I perform, but I don’t if you know what I mean. The object of the game is to survive this one. It’s to get to the bottom of the course and have a finishing time. I don’t want a DQ or a DNF.
The major international TV exposure will surely help in growing the sport.
Oh yeah. It’s at Aspen and our race is at 1:45 PM on Sunday the 30th of January which is finals day. It’s pretty rad. They are having women’s boarder-cross final, women’s half pipe final then us, then men’s boarder-cross, men’s skier-cross and men’s halfpipe snowboard finals. Our event will be live on TV sometime between 12:00 and 3:00 PM on January 30th. It’s pretty good for my CV too to say “Yeah that was me on TV.”
That level of exposure I’m sure helps when it comes to sponsorship and support for the athletes as well.
I hope so. I’ve been poking around a bit for sponsorship, asking a few companies for stuff and trying to get some equipment. In the last couple of weeks I had POC Helmets just come back to me and the first thing they said was “We looked at our budget and we don’t think we can do anything.” Half an hour later they sent me an e-mail saying “Yeah you’re on the team, we got you, what do you need?”
Also Maelle Ricker, the Canadian Olympian, I’m actually riding one of her snowboards at the moment. She donated all of her old equipment which is still all perfectly fine to the Canadian Paralympic Snowboard Team. It’s a nice board. I don’t know if it’s better than what I’ve got but, hey, she’s gone fast, right, so it should be good. It’s been riding fast, so I’m sure it knows how to do it.
I also ride for Ross Vegas and Red Mountain and my biggest supporter has been the Canadian Snowboard Federation. Actually my biggest supporter though has been Betty Go Hard (Lockey’s wife Natasha’s company). I had to get her a plug in there somewhere right, but no she is my biggest supporter by far. She’s been lucky enough to be named as my coach for the event so she gets an all areas backstage pass as I do as well.
What’s your training schedule look like in the next two weeks leading up to the event?
I head down there next Wednesday the 26th. Until then I will be riding as much as I can. I get to ride with the Kootenay Riders, the Rossland Snowboard Academy out of RSS so I get to go out and hang out with a bunch of kids and go snowboarding. The Coach is associated with the Canadian Snowboard Federation so I get to go and train with those guys and just train, go downhill and go to the gym as much as I can.
Good luck in the event! For other young rippers just coming up or for anyone facing a challenge in their life have you got any words of advice to pass along?
Don’t let things hold you back, and just try as best you can and have as much fun as you can. As long as you are having fun, don’t worry about what anyone else says. It’s like when you’re out skiing or boarding if you’re not having fun than you’re doing it wrong.