A mountainside vigil and a sombre group ride down the slopes of Pyhä ski resort were some of the ways Para-snowboarders commemorated one of the sport’s well-known coaches, Mikko Wendelin, during the second World Cup event, from 2-4 December in Finland.
The Finnish coach passed away suddenly on 28 November, before his home resort was set to host the season’s first snowboard-cross races.
Perhaps the best tribute to Wendelin came from three of his athletes who ascended the podium in Pyhä.
Australia’s Ben Tudhope was golden in both men’s SB-LL2 events. In the first, he was joined on the podium by the USA’s Zach Miller and Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari. In the second, Tudhope crossed the line ahead of Canada’s Alex Massie and the USA’s Joe Pleban.
Tudhope, Suur-Hamari and Massie all hail from Wendelin’s training group, fondly dubbed ‘Team Unicorn’. It was their first competition since the passing of their coach.
“This is all for him,” Tudhope said after his first victory. “We live and stand by him, and I could just hear him in my head all day going, ‘This is for you. Just ride your best, do your best. Don’t worry about anything else’.
“I really wanted to do him proud, so to get the win today … it’s probably one of my biggest wins to date. I will treasure this moment forever.”
By Lena Smirnova, World Para-snowboard