George Grey has never been the flashiest male on the Canadian National Ski Team (CNST). He is not nearly as brash, or into Twitter as teammate Devon Kershaw. He’s not a young, fresh-faced Quebecer like Alex Harvey. He’s not a recent émigré from Russia with a sweet tooth as is Ivan Babikov.
However, his ability on skis is equal to his slightly more enigmatic teammates, and the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Gino’ by the rest of the members of the CNST proved it beyond a doubt this winter, racking up impressive results at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. He finished 29th in the 15 k Free, eighth in the now-infamous 30 k Pursuit, anchored the Canadians extremely competitive relay team to a seventh-place finish, and finally finished 18th in the 50 k Classic.
The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver were Grey’s second, but he was understandably more moved this time around than in Torino by both his own racing and the complete experience. “It felt like what we did actually had meaning and was really felt by Canadians,” Grey said in a recent e-mail to FasterSkier. “We race overseas all year and Canada doesn’t get to share our highs and lows.”
Grey attributes his Olympic performances – which he considers the best of his life – to the training he put in during the month before. “I combined long distance, intensity, high altitude, and good rest in the right combination. Listening to your body is crucial and I have learned what feels right and wrong. The racing was just easy after that,” he said. In characteristic good grace, Grey does admit that it wasn’t all him – he credits the wax technicians’ efforts, saying they “nailed the skis.”
But after a block-buster Olympic Games, the spring was not ideal for him. He was unable to race the World Cup Final in Sweden because he had not collected enough World Cup points — in order to race the Final, you had to be in the Top 50 on the Sprint or Distance points list, or have a regional spot. Grey also suffered from injury problems – he recently had surgery to clear up a lingering knee injury. As a result he missed out on the CNST’s recent Haig glacier ‘Yo-Yo’ Camp, but he hasn’t let it keep him down. “Like my dad has always told me, ‘Son…tough times don’t last, but tough people do,’” he said.
In addition to recovering from surgery, Grey has other things to keep him preoccupied. His wife is pregnant with the couple’s first child, and Grey states “without question, my priority will be being a great father.” Skiing and children are far from being mutually exclusive, as Grey has successful parent-athletes close to home to draw inspiration and advice from. “I will have Beckie [Scott] and Sara [Renner] on speed dial,” he said. Both women raced extremely competitively after becoming mothers, and continue to live and be a part of the ski community in Canmore, Alberta
At 31, Grey is not the youngest member of the team, and with a child now on the way, he says his ski career is being taken “year by year.” But the Olympics proved to be a gigantic motivator. “I will not forget racing in the Olympics with Ivan, Devon, and Alex all right beside me,” he said, “That is something special that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
And while Grey is gunning for a medal at the World Championships in Oslo next February, certain team mates feel Oslo 2011 won’t be his final major championship. “Devon[Kershaw] likes throwing random bets at us,” Grey said, and “his most recent to me was 500 dollars say I will be racing next to him in Sochi. I consider that a win-win bet. If I am there, I am racing fast, if I am not there…I have $500 to double down on black with!”
In 2014 Grey will be 35, which is by no means over the hill. In Vancouver, a 36 year old Italian, Pietro Piller Cottrer, took the silver medal in the 15 k Free.