Summit locals named to US para snowboard national team ahead of Paralympics
2022 Winter Paralympic Games are from March 4-13 in Beijing
Summit local para snowboarders Zach Miller and Joe Pleban have been named to the 2021-22 U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding National Team.
Pleban, 31, and Miller, 22, each are named to the team for the third consecutive year. The two athletes earned the nomination thanks to their recent success on the para snowboard World Cup.
“This means that we are on the national team, and we’ll be traveling to training camps and World Cups as the World Cup team, but we don’t find out who makes the Paralympics until February,” Pleban said. “The athletes going to China, that’s based on selection criteria throughout this coming season.”
If Pleban and Miller qualify to the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing, slated for March 4-13, it’ll be their first time competing at a Paralympics.
Pleban, who trains with Adaptive Action Sports at Copper Mountain Resort and hails from Fredericksburg, Virginia, said he’s excited for a more traditional, full World Cup schedule this season after there was only one World Cup location last winter. Pleban medaled at both World Cup competitions in Italy.
“We’re going all over,” he said. “We start next month in Switzerland for training. Then in November and December, we do kind of a European tour, with World Cups in the Netherlands, Finland and Austria. Then in January, we have the World Championships in Norway and another World Cup right after that in Sweden.
Pleban — who has a rare joint disease that resulted in the amputation of his left foot several years ago — said he has focused this season on maintaining top physical shape and improving the technical side of his riding. Pleban said he has forged a strong foundation in his riding after taking up para snowboarding much later in life than Miller. Despite his youth, Miller has competed on the USASA circuit since he was 11 years old.
“He’s such a fantastic technical rider,” Pleban said about his fellow Adaptive Action Sports and U.S. team rider. “He has amazing control of his board, so it’s really fun to watch him, especially in the more technical start sections.”
Miller — a Silverthorne resident who, like Pleban, races both snowboardcross and banked slalom — was born with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Miller said the condition he’s had since before birth has affected his muscle growth and resulted in underdevelopment of his body.
Despite the condition, Miller said he uses his light, fast frame to his advantage when racing against much bigger athletes, like Pleban.
“To be in a gravity-fed sport with such a massive setback in weight can be difficult,” Miller said. “But I play to the strengths I do have. I can pull out of the gate, usually, much faster than anyone else there with me.”
Miller said the chance to represent his country in Beijing is something he has wanted for a long time.
“Putting my flag up there on the podium would be a good feeling,” he said. “And even if the worst-case scenario happens and I don’t have a strong showing, I’m grateful to have this opportunity.”
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