Bunbury’s Sean Pollard has gone from shark attack survivor to Paralympic athlete in just over three years.
The 26-year-old snowboarder has qualified for the banked slalom and snowboard cross SB-UL events in this year’s Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
He will be one of 13 Australian athletes to compete in this year’s games, with the team vying for Australia’s first winter Paralympic medal since Salt Lake City in 2002.
“I was super happy to get the news that I had made the team, I kind of knew for a while that I would be going because my results were good enough so it was great to make it official,” Pollard said.
“I just hope to enjoy the whole experience, really.
“My family is coming over with me so it will be great to have them in the crowd cheering me on.
“I aim to focus on my riding and hopefully the results will come if I ride well.”
Pollard lost his right arm and left hand after being attacked by two great white sharks off the Esperance coast in October 2014.
He fell in love with snowboarding after taking a trip with friends to Victoria’s Mount Buller in September 2015.
While snowboarding in Canada, Pollard met Canadian para-snowboard coach Mark Fawcett.
“He tried to get me to ride for the Canadian team, and told me all about the sport, but I told him I was from Australia and that that couldn’t happen,” he said.
I aim to focus on my riding and hopefully the results will come if I ride well.Sean Pollard
Pollard then reached out to the Australian Paralympic Committee who convinced him to join a camp for para-snowboarders with upper-limb impairment.
From there, Pollard delivered blistering results and top 15 finishes in his first competitive para-snowboarding season.
He went on to place sixth in Men’s Snowboard Cross event at the 2017 IPC Snowboard World Cup in Lake Tahoe, USA.
“I always loved surfing and skateboarding so it is a pretty similar, crossover sport,” Pollard said.
“I wasn’t surfing anymore so snowboarding filled that hole for me.
“There was a bit of a learning curve in picking up different aspects of the sport, but a lot of it crossed over from surfing and I picked up the skills really quickly.”
Pollard had to get two top-eight finishes to qualify for the 2018 Paralympic team.
This season, he achieved three fifth-place finishes in both banked slalom and snowboard cross.
Last season, he placed eighth overall at the 2016/17 IPC World Cup Finals in PyeongChang.
“It was a really cool experience getting to go there last year and meet the Korean people, they’re pretty tops,” he said.
Pollard flies out to PyeongChang on Friday for 10 days’ training ahead of the games.
The Paralympian wished for every person with disability to find their passion in life.
“You have got to believe that you can make it and do something great with your life,” Pollard said.
Vision impaired skier Shaun Pianta, from Collie, has also qualified for his first Paralympics alongside sighted guide Jeremy O’Sullivan.
Pianta will be officially selected pending medical approval.
The 2018 Winter Paralympic Games kick off on March 9.