Nose to the grindstone, Mike Shea awaits snowboarding event in Sochi

By Jamie M. Blanchard | Jan. 24, 2014, 2 p.m. (ET)
Mike Shea
Mike Shea won the first race of the 2014 International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup in Copper Mountain, Colo., on Jan. 18. It was his second world cup win of the season.

Only two races remain on the regular season International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing Snowboard World Cup circuit. Headlined by American Mike Shea, who has two gold medals and one silver medal this season, athletes are competing in Big White, B.C., Jan. 25-26.

Before the races, caught up with Shea, who won the first race at the Copper Mountain, Colo., world cup last weekend before taking the silver medal in the second race. With those two medals and the title from Landgraaf, Netherlands, he is ranked No. 1 in the world cup standings for men’s snowboard cross.

With the last races of the regular world cup season this weekend, how do you feel about the season up to this point?

It’s crazy to think that we are heading into the last regular season world cup of the season. It feels like it all just started. In early November, we had a world cup in Landgraaf, Netherlands, but after that we went nearly two and a half months without a single race. That was a great time for me and the rest of my teammates to focus on training. In the last few months, I have spent more time on snow than I can ever remember. During that time, I have accomplished so much. It was great to see it all pay off with another gold medal at the world cup in Copper. I couldn't be happier with where I'm at physically and mentally. This week’s race in Big White is just another step toward my peak in Sochi.  

You have two gold medals and a silver medal, which is the best showing for any athlete on this year’s world cup circuit. Are you surprised by your success?

Even though I have had great results this season, I try not to focus much on my success. I spend a short period of time being happy and then it’s right back to business. Every year the competition gets tougher and tougher but this summer, I have seen athletes push their training to a whole new level in the gym. It’s not good enough to just be a great snowboarder anymore. You have to be a well-rounded athlete. That means you have to spend long days in the gym, eat healthy and take great care of your body. It’s something that I am glad to see because it’s the only real way to push the limits of a sport. This season, I am also lucky enough to be training with some of the best coaches in the sport. It’s like a dream team coaching staff. Having them in my corner has been paramount in my recent success. I don't know where I would be without them.

What are your goals for these world cup races?

Going into the Canadian world cup this weekend, I plan to work on repetition with my coaches and teammates. It’s all about working through the kinks and recreating successful scenarios. Having said that, success doesn't necessarily mean a gold medal or a podium. After training today, it’s pretty obvious that I still have weaknesses. The course is much different than anything we have been on yet. In order to win here in Canada, you will have be a good glider. That is something I have always struggled with, which takes me back to "creating successful scenarios”. Rather than being hard on myself or getting frustrated, I am trying to figure out what will fix the problem. I would rather struggle with these issues here in Canada than in Sochi. While it would be nice to go home with another gold medal this weekend, the outcome of this race means very little to me in the grand scheme of things.

Regardless of your finish here, how do you keep the momentum going toward the world cup final and into Sochi?

The momentum is certainly building as we head to La Molina, Spain, for the world cup finals. I’m really looking forward to it. The strategy and approach this year is so much different than previous years. It’s really easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that there is a greater purpose this season. I just have to keep my nose down to the grinding stone. I don't plan to look up until the evening of March 14.

Men’s and women’s snowboard cross for athletes with a lower limb impairment will debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games on March 14 as a part of the alpine skiing program. The U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team will be nominated in early February.