Page back
PLEBAN Joe
Sport Para snowboard
NPC United States   
GenderMen
Age31
Human Interest
Impairment Information
Type of Impairment
Limb deficiency
Origin of Impairment
Acquired
Classification
SB-LL2
Further Personal Information
Family
Wife Johnna Hetrick
Residence
Silverthorne, CO, USA
Occupation
Athlete
Languages
English
Sport Specific Information
When and where did you begin this sport?
He began Para snowboarding in January 2017 through the Adaptive Action Sports organisation in Copper Mountain, CO, United States of America.
Why this sport?
Growing up he spent time skiing and snowboarding with his family in Vermont, United States of America. Snowboarding influenced his decision to have his foot amputated. "When I hit the point of not being able to snowboard anymore, I knew I was going to have to do something pretty drastic to get it back. I was in tears just thinking, 'This is my last sport, this is my favourite sport, please don't take this from me'. That decision [to take up Para snowboard] was made before the amputation even happened. Snowboarding was part of the decision to get the amputation."
General Interest
Hobbies
Skateboarding. (teamusa.org, 22 Oct 2020)
Memorable sporting achievement
Finishing 10th at his first national competition in Copper Mountain, CO, United States of America. "It was very humbling but it was very inspiring." (teamusa.org, 30 Jul 2020)
Injuries
In February 2020 he broke his clavicle in 19 places and underwent surgery the same month. He returned to the slopes in October 2020. (teamusa.org, 22 Oct 2020; Instagram profile, 27 Feb 2020)

In December 2018 he broke his clavicle after under-rotating a backflip during training. (Facebook page, 07 Dec 2018)
Other sports
He played rugby at university level in the United States of America. (teamusa.org, 30 Jul 2020)
Ambitions
To win a medal at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. (teamusa.org, 22 Oct 2020, 30 Jul 2020)
Impairment
In June 2014 he had his left foot amputated due to pigmented villonodular synovitis [PVNS], a joint condition which had caused benign tumours to grow in his ankle. He underwent two nerve surgeries after the initial amputation. (American Dream Special Ops YouTube channel, 18 Jan 2018; today.com, 17 Jul 2014)
Other information
LEFT FOOT BUCKET LIST
Prior to his amputation in June 2014, he and his then girlfriend Johnna created a bucket list called the 'Last Adventures of Joe's Left Foot'. The list featured activities he wanted to complete before the amputation, including going to a music festival, paintballing, scuba diving, go-karting, and getting a tattoo reading 'Please Cut Here' on the foot that would be amputated. After a photo of the tattoo went viral online, he gained a large following on social media, where he posted photos of himself completing the bucket list. "I could easily have sat around and really second guessed myself and got in my own head which, believe me, still happened but it helped to be having fun checking off all these activities that I had always wanted to do. The greatest reward from this small burst of fame was meeting the numerous people in situations just like mine. Countless amazing individuals emerged, from long-time amputees to a nine-year-old who was beginning to consider amputation. The ability to reach out and help others on their journey as well as to learn from incredible athletes has shown me that there can be good things that come out of a bad situation." (teamusa.org, 30 Jul 2020; joepleban.com, 01 Jan 2017)

COVID-19 INJURY RESPITE
He said that recovering from surgery on a broken clavicle in 2020 was made easier as a result of restrictions being in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "It turned out to be the best time to do recovery, because I wasn't missing out on everything. One of the toughest things about recovering from an injury, especially with social media and how connected everything is, is seeing your teammates and your friends ripping it up while you're just sitting at home, arm in a sling. So it made me feel a bit better knowing that everyone was in the same boat, sitting at home waiting to see what was going to happen." (teamusa.org, 22 Oct 2020; paralympic.org, 12 Mar 2020)

Competition Highlights (historical)
World Championships
Rank Year Event Result
10 2018/2019 Banked Slalom - Lower Limb 2 Impaired 53.92
World Cup Finals
Rank Year Event Result
15 2017/2018 Snowboard Cross - Lower Limb 2 Impaired 1:10.02
  2017/2018 Banked Slalom - Lower Limb 2 Impaired  DNS