My name is Keith Gabel. I am a snowboarder. After being introduced to the sport in 2000, riding quickly became essential to me.
In June of 2005 I was involved in an industrial accident; over 2000 pounds of hydraulic pressure crushed my left foot. I was rushed into emergency reconstructive surgery. Following four blood transfusions, 26 hyper barrack treatments and a blood clot in my left lung, the doctors told me that I would most likely watch my foot die. After a painstaking two weeks, all but a small portion of my foot had died. I made the decision to amputate.
I love snow boarding with every ounce of my soul. After my amputation I asked the doctors how long it would be until I could snowboard again. Despite the odds, I was back on my board three months later. The 2010/2011 season was my sixth season riding with an amputation. Half way through the season I met Travis Theile, the Para Snowboarding team manager for the National Ability Center in Park City. In February he invited me to train with Coach Stuart Rae of Team Utah and travel to the Para Snowboarding WSF Snowboard Cross World Cup in Orcières 1850, France.
With only a couple days of snowboard cross training, I took third in my first major competition. Shortly following the World Cup, I was invited to fore run the 2011 US Open Halfpipe and Slopestyle events. I am the first amputee to hit a 65 foot jump at the US Open or any other international competition.
In April 2011, I had the opportunity to compete in my second WSF World Cup at Lake Louise, Canada. Hosted as part of able-bodied Canadian Nationals, I took second place with times that were competitive with the able bodied racers.
In august 2011, I traveled to Lake Wanaka New Zealand to compete in my third WSF World Cup event. This event was hosted by the One Hundred Percent Pure New Zealand Winter Games. Although it was summer in the United States I raced well and was honored to represent my country on the podium with a third place finish.
In January 2012, I went to aspen Colorado to compete in the adaptive Snowboard Cross race at the 2012 Winter X-Games. This was by far the biggest and most challenging course I have seen or ridden, not to mention the first time I have ever raced elbow to elbow. The field was packed with some of the best Para Snowboarders in the world, but despite all odds I managed to stay on my feet and took home the gold.
Just after the winter X-Games I returned to Ocieres 1850, France to compete in the WSF Para World Championships. Although I was racing with a concussion and broken ribs I rode hard but unfortunately missed the podium by four tenths of a second. This definitely tested my heart and compassion for the sport, and I returned home with the resolution to never come so close but not make the podium again.
In April 2012, I returned to Canada for the next WSF World Cup at Nakiska, mountain. This race was once again held on the Canadian Nationals course which was one of the most technical courses consisting of features I have never seen before. I raced well and returned to the podium with a third place finish.
With my first world cup gold in Slovenia and a couple other podium finishes at the Canadian world cups, I finished last season with a world ranking of 3rd in the world.
Para snowboarding is constantly growing bigger and bigger every year and on May 2, 2012 the International Paralympic Committee announced the inclusion of our sport in the 2014 Winter Games held in Sochi Russia. This incredible accomplishment is due in part to our commitments as individual athletes and as the most successful adaptive team in the world. I plan on training hard for the next twenty months and being there to represent my country at the top of the podium. However, without funding there is no way that I will be able to afford housing, training, insurance, travel and competition costs thus putting a stranglehold on my Paralympic goals and dreams. Here is a link to the press release stating our inclusion to the Paralympics. http://www.paralympic.org/news/para-snowboard-included-sochi-2014-paralympic-winter-games
Here are a couple of other links to newspaper articles explaining our fight to reach our goals. http://www.standard.net/topics/paralympics/2011/03/19/ogden-s-keith-gabel-does-not-let-losing-leg-keep-him-snowboarding http://www.xploreutah.net/story/local-adaptive-snowboarders-fight-get-sport-paralympics
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