The snowboarders the Paralympics didn’t want

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More than two years ago, the IPC informed Hernandez, gold medalist at the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, that she and Huckaby, 2018 gold medalist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, could not participate in the Beijing Games.

No one accused them of doing anything wrong. Their misfortune was to be entered in races that were going to be canceled for lack of other snowboarders.

Hernandez, 47, and Huckaby, 26, are rated SB-LL1. An SB-LL1 runner has a significant impairment in one leg, such as an above-knee amputation, or significant combined impairments in two legs. But there were not enough qualified LL1 snowboarders to make the race viable, and the IPC closed it.

Huckaby therefore asked instead to be placed in the men’s LL1 race or the women’s LL2, two categories ostensibly more difficult for her. An LL2 runner has impairment in one or both legs, with less activity limitation than an LL1 competitor. In all parasports, classification is determined by physicians observing the athletes.

The IPC denied his request, even though the riders were progressing in class. The IPC opposes athletes of one classification entering events of another. It could affect the integrity of the competition if athletes were allowed to race in the classification of their choice.

Huckaby and Hernandez hired Christof Wieschemann, a German lawyer, to handle the case because, with the Bonn-based IPC, the German courts had jurisdiction.

Wieschemann first secured a temporary injunction for Huckaby on Jan. 27, arguing that classification systems of any kind in all sports are designed to “protect the weak from the strong,” not the other way around.


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