Jon-Allan Butterworth targets more Paralympic success in snowboarding

Four-time Paralympic medallist Jon-Allan Butterworth is relishing some danger and unpredictability after joining GB Snowsport’s Para Snowsport world class programme.

Butterworth, who won three silver medals at London 2012 and gold in Rio in 2016, retired from professional cycling in December last year and was initially looking forward to snowboarding simply for fun.

But the 35-year-old is now targeting success in the Para Snowboard discipline at the 2026 Games in Italy after instantly rediscovering his love for competitive sport.

Butterworth, who served in the RAF in Afghanistan and Iraq before losing his left arm below the elbow in a rocket attack in 2007, told the PA news agency: “I wanted to try to go to Tokyo and defend the team sprint title but going through two Paralympic cycles was quite mentally taxing.

“It got to the point where it was difficult to find the motivation to stay at the top. A bad day was a silver and you lost the initial new sport feeling. It felt like more of a slog trying to get back to your best.

“My first rehab event back in 2007 just after I lost my arm was snowboarding and I kind of classed myself as a recreational snowboarder. I had a real passion for it, but cycling always got in the way.

“It always clashed with the paracycling programme and there was always a risk of injury so I was looking forward to retiring so I could snowboard. I never thought of the possibility of switching over.

Jon-Allan Butterworth
Great Britain’s Jon-Allan Butterworth (left) Jody Cundy and Louis Rolfe (right) celebrate with their gold medals after winning the Mixed C1-5 750m Team Sprint Final in the 2016 Rio Olympics (Adam Davy/PA)

“The only other sport I was thinking about was taekwondo. I got offered triathlon and I thought that’s not my bag at all. I’d probably swim around in circles and my running’s not very good

“So I got in touch with the (snowboard) coaches and expressed an interest and went back in the dome as soon as it reopened after Covid and it was instantaneous. I got that excitement back for a sport that I realised I had lost a little bit in cycling. I got that kid-like joy in doing something.”

Butterworth believes there are elements of cycling which cross over well into snowboarding and is confident he can make the transition quicker than the five years generally thought necessary.

He has not even completely ruled out contesting the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing in March, but added: “The realistic goal is 2026.

“I’d like to medal or win and that will be the same pressure that I put on myself at the highest level in cycling. I’ll be treating snowboarding like cycling in that kind of mentality.

“Snowboarding is a bit like BMX in cycling. It’s a bit more dangerous with more risk of injury and the racing is not as controlled as cycling. It’s not as guaranteed and you could dedicate four years and sacrifice a lot for you to have a crash and bomb out.

“In a way that makes it more exciting as well, that gets the juices flowing because it’s more unpredictable. In track racing you know you’re on form and are there or thereabouts and then it’s just down to the last few tenths (of a second).

“I think snowsport is going to be harder mentally. I think you’ve got to be prepared to lose more than you win, especially as we’re not renowned as a nation for being the best in the world.”