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In the football season of the beginning of 2003. Andrew Stibbs was unable to give his physical support to Bexleyheath football club. Taking several months off. Bexleyheath was without a player that could frighten the opposition and even his team players, with his rugby style tackling styles, through that with the right coaching and patience he can be developed to become a better player.

He was off to follow his dreams of competing in the Deafympics, to match up to the best of the world deaf snowboarders.

In January to March. He did a build up of training to develop himself for the deafympics, taking a trip to Chamonix to France, he needed to practice in differing grounds of terrains, and Chamonix was the place to do it, it had mountains and mountains of differing levels of difficulties from powder snow to ice ground. He stayed there for 10 days and he was fully prepared for the Winter Deafympics in Sweden.

On February 26th. He got together his Great Britain supporters and Public relations officers, they flied from Luton Airport to Stockholm airport and travelled by train get to Sundsvall.

From February 27th to 10th March. He was in 10 days of hard work and slog. Being the only sole representative of Bexleyheath deaf football club, he worked on different tasks, working on practicing on the slopes, helping the Great Britain team learn how to snowboard, communicating with the competing nationalities, preparing equipments and clothes, helping promote winter sports for the deaf through emails, presenting it for See Hear and Channel 4 Vee-TV. Attending technical meetings as GB winter sports manager, and taking in Sweden's culture and people.

In the competition Andy qualified for both the Giant and Parallel Slalom by competing the course in a quick fashion. In the Giant Slalom, he came 12th out of 15th in the Giant Slalom, due to his board not being technically superior enough to face up to the opposing competitors.

To see his competitors with their own race custom boards, race step in bindings, skin tight race suits, hard boots while I had a 'normal' board, soft boards and flexible binding for all rounder boarding was pretty hard to take in. Looking at what Great Britain was offering, He had to deal with injures, waxing and coaching from himself. Whilst each 'non-GB' competitors had their own support staff with masseuses, doctors, waxers and coaches.

He learnt from them, about their continued support and the funding they received from their government and organisations. They had much better backing than Great Britain ever did. It exhausted me to train, with carrying my boards down and up the slopes and the mountain every day. Waxing and tweaking the boards did his hands much damage. Dealing with the technical aspects, like the difficulties the Sundsvall organisers was having with the half pipe.

For the Parallel Slalom he competed against the 3rd placed ranked Bernhard Kurzmann. In the first round, he started on the left gate, went down, slowed down in the middle to avoid hitting the middle gate, Bernhard zoomed down past me and won the first round.

Andrew and Bernhard swapped gates for the second round and due to having no practice on the right, slipped on the ice. Undeterred, Andy got up again and completed the course in a slower fashion that Andy originally wanted to.

Kurzmann, ranked in the top 15 in the world, progressed to the final after eliminating William Lofus, of the USA in the semi-finals before being narrowly defeated by the gold medallist Fabio Perricone of Italy.

Andy thought the Winter Deafympics was a fantastic experience. To meet so many deaf international athletes and officials was wonderful. Andy cannot wait to go to the next Winter Deafympics. Andrew proved that Great Britain can compete in both Deafympics but there must be a much stronger organisation and backing from GB deaf sports organisations and sporting bodies for athletes for all sports.

Andrew Stibbs

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