Australian snowboarder Matthew "Matty" Robinson, 28, died on Friday following neck and spinal injuries sustained Feb. 12 while competing at the International Paralympic Committee Para-Snowboard World Cup finals in La Molina, Spain.
Robinson, whose upper body joints were impaired by arthrogryposis, a rare congenital curvature of joints, was leading the upper limb impairment classification in the 2014 IPC World Cup rankings.
According to a statement from the Australian Paralympic Committee, Robinson spent eight days at the Parc Tauli Sabadell Hospital in Barcelona for treatment following the crash, and was en route home to Melbourne via air ambulance when he died during a refueling stop in Kuwait.
"Matthew suffered a cardiac arrest on board the aircraft and CPR was administered by the air ambulance medical crew. Sadly, he could not be revived," according to the statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Matthew's parents, his fiancée, his family and his teammates. Our immediate concern is to do everything possible to support them at this extremely sad and difficult time."
In January, Robinson finished first and second at IPC Para-Snowboard World Cup races at Copper Mountain, Colo., and finished second in both races at the IPC World Cup event in Panorama, British Columbia. The day before his crash, he finished fourth in the first of two races at La Molina.
Snowboarding will make its Paralympic Games debut next month in Sochi, Russia, with a lower limb impairment classification. Robinson's classification will not be contested in Sochi, but he was among the athletes working with the IPC to add upper limb impairment classifications before the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"When the Paralympics announcement was first made, he thought he was going, and then they broke the news that it was only going to be lower limb classifications," said Mike Shay, a developmental coach at NCSD who is also a member of the U.S. national team headed to Sochi and one of Robinson's closest friends. "He was so bummed. But that never stopped him from making the effort to show up at every single World Cup event this year, because he was determined that it would be in by the next time around."
"The whole of the Paralympic movement is deeply saddened by this heartbreaking tragedy," IPC president Philip Craven said in a statement Friday. "Matthew was a world class and extremely popular athlete, a fact underlined by the vast number of support messages he received from around the world following last week's accident. He sustained his injuries doing the sport he loved most. The IPC and whole of the Paralympic movement are in deep mourning at his passing. The movement is a close knit family and he will be sadly missed by all."
Amy Purdy, a double beneath-the-knee amputee adaptive snowboarder who will compete in Sochi for Team USA, echoed the sentiment.
"It's a huge loss for his Australian team and family and friends, obviously, but also for the entire adaptive action sports community, because we're such a small group and we've all worked hard together to grow our sport and get to where we're at now," Purdy said.
Purdy is a co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, the sport organizer for adaptive sports at X Games since 2008 and the organization that has helped coach Robinson and other athletes over the last decade.
"He was just the most happiest, full-of-life person you'd ever meet, one of those rare people who totally lived life to the fullest and inspired everyone he met," she said. "He was so full of love and laughter and fun that I can't even really process the fact that he's gone."