By Nick Butler

Plans are in place to increase the number of Para-snowboard events following a successful debut at Sochi 2014 ©Getty ImagesApril 16 - Plans are in place to introduce a new slalom snowboarding discipline to the Paralympic programme following the successful debut of the sport at Sochi 2014.

After a sustained campaign over a number of years, two medal events in snowboard cross for athletes with lower limb impairments were introduced in Sochi, with Bibian Mentel-Spee of the Netherlands and Evan Strong of the United States taking the first two gold medals. 

But the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has now announced they are looking at how to grow the sport further in the four years leading up to Pyeongchang 2018.

This will include the introduction of a banked slalom event, as well as changes to snowboard cross, meaning that competitors race in a head-to-head rather than a time trial format, although there are no plans yet in place to introduce events for non-standing athletes.  

Bibian Mentel-Spee became the first ever Paralympic snowboarding champion in Sochi ©AFP/Getty ImagesBibian Mentel-Spee became the first ever Paralympic snowboarding champion in Sochi ©AFP/Getty Images

"For the 2014-2015 season we're looking to introduce a banked slalom which will involve athletes tackling a slalom course down a gulley run with a number of other features," said the IPC Alpine Skiing Sport Technical Committee chairman Sylvana Mestre.

"We will also look to change snowboard cross so that athletes will come down the course two-by-two.

"After a qualifying round, athletes will go head-to-head down the course with the winner progressing to the next round of competition.

"These changes will help grow the sport further and are sure to be warmly welcomed by athletes who will have more disciplines to compete in, as well as spectators and television viewers who will love the thrilling entertainment of the sport.

"We are currently in the process of finalising the rules for these changes with the aim of having everything signed off at the next Sport Technical Committee meeting in late May."

Tickets for Para-snowboarding at Sochi 2014 were among the first to sell out, and Mestre credited various figures including the first gold medal winner Mentel-Spee for the surging popularity this demonstrated. 

"I think Para-snowboard cross was one the success stories of Sochi 2014 and huge credit should go to those people who helped get the sport into the Games," she said.

"I remember in 2005, Bibian Mentel and IPC Governing Board member Rita van Driel presenting the sport at a FIS [International Ski Federation] sub-committee and then the World Snowboard Federation did a great job in helping to take on the sport.

"Having the sport in the Games was very important and already we are seeing a lot more athletes getting involved."

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