One of the things that keeps me coming back even after skiing kicks me in the ass is the amazing people involved in the sport. I simply can’t stay away from them. Maybe I am slightly biased in my opinion, but I think that a lot of folks would agree that skiers are the most supportive, fun (and also the best looking) group of people you’ll find anywhere. I’ve seen evidence of this across the country and across the globe. This year, as a member of CVTC, I was exposed to an entirely new group of athletes and coaches from the B.C. Ski Team and Development Team. I formed new friendships, got a great ab workout from all the laughing, and even learned a thing or two while I was at it. It never ceases to amaze me that wherever skiing takes me, the people I meet along the way all embody the same values of sportsmanship, kindness, and team camaraderie.
At World Juniors last winter, I had an experience that has had a lasting impact on me. I was not in race-ready shape last March. It was a very long and difficult winter for me where I struggled to deal with the effects of overtraining and an ongoing sickness that I couldn’t seem to shake. I raced my very hardest in Tarvisio and put my entire heart and soul into it, but at that point the only thing that was going to make me fast again was months of rest. While my teammates were making history with best ever Canadian finishes at the championships, I was struggling not to finish in last place. Still, I tried to hold back my tears while congratulating them on their performances. Anyone who knows me knows I can be a water fountain when things don’t go my way, so this was a big challenge for me. And I wasn’t entirely successful either.
In the pursuit race, I finished second to last. I felt hopeless and defeated, and I was sure that my entire ski career was over. I needed a good cry, so I went off for a cool down run on a road where it was quieter. I sat down on a log and let the tears flow. A little while later, I felt a tap on my back. It was a girl dressed in American team wear who introduced herself as Liz Stephen. She had seen me running down the road looking visibly upset and had come to offer some support. We sat there for a while and talked a little bit. Rather, she talked and I blubbered away, letting out a couple of words between the sobs. What Liz said to me wasn’t anything profound. Nor was it anything I hadn’t heard before. It was the usual, â€œEverybody has their ups and downs,â€ â€œWe all go through this at one time or another,â€ and â€œYou’ll look back on this later and laugh.â€ It wasn’t what she said; it was that she said it. Here she was, a total stranger from a different country, and she was going out of her way to cheer me up. After that, the other races weren’t any easier, and my results didn’t get any better. And I still hadn’t renewed my faith in my ability to ski fast. But I had renewed my faith in the spirit of the sport and the reasons why I ski, which I’ve now come to realize are more important.
Skiing is an individual sport, and when the gun goes off, it’s every man for himself. But that hasn’t stopped the athletes I know from being supportive teammates and just great people in general. I want to say thanks to Liz for helping change my outlook, and thanks to everyone else involved in the sport for being so much fun to be around!