March 6 - Finnish snowboarder Matti Suur-Hamari has been voted the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) Athlete of the Month for February.
The 28-year-old received 43 per cent of the public vote on the IPC website to pip French Alpine skier Marie Bochet, Australian Alpine skier Toby Kane, Italian Alpine skier Alessandro Daldoss, British sailor Alexandra Rickham and Tunisian wheelchair racer Walid Ktila, to the award.
Suur-Hamari, a left leg amputee following a motorcycle incident in 2009, won the last race of the 2014 International Paralympic Committee Adaptive Snowboard (IPCAS) World Cup Finals in La Molina, Spain, last month to finish third overall in the World Cup standings for the 2013-2014 season.
He has been training with Finland's able-bodied snowboard cross team this season, helping him vault to 3,860 points in the World Cup standings and a victory in the Finals.
The Fin will be fighting the American duo of Mike Shea and Evan Strong, who claimed first and second in the World Cup standings, for podium spots when snowboard makes its Paralympic debut in Sochi on March 14, with American Keith Gabel and New Zealand's Carl Murphy also likely to challenge.
Suur-Hamari, who works as a sound engineer for a private Finnish television channel, has started attracting attention in the past couple of weeks for his road to Sochi story.
He first tried snowboarding recreationally in 1999, and after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2009, he took up Para-snowboarding competitively in 2012.
This vote of confidence will give him a huge boost coming into the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games where he will be a major contender for a podium spot in the snowboard-cross discipline.
"In La Molina, everything came together for me and I had two really good races there," Suur-Hamari said.
"It was fitting that I won just before Sochi, so now I'm even more excited about going to the Paralympics and seeing what happens."
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February 2014: Para-snowboarder Shea named USOC Athlete of the Month
February 2014: Snowboarders head to La Molina for IPC World Cup Finals ahead of Sochi 2014
February 2014: World number ones Mike Shea and Evan Strong lead US Para-snowboarding squad for Sochi 2014
November 2013: Shea and Mentel follow-up Europa Cup wins by taking World Cup titles in Landgraaf
November 2013: Shea and Mentel warm-up for IPC snowboard World Cup with Europa Cup wins