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Fawcett, Chalmers retire from racing

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It’s been a good ride, punctuated by moments of greatness, for Canadian snowboard legends Mark Fawcett and Darren Chalmers.

The pair made their retirement from the sport official last week at a party following the World Cup parallel slalom on Dec. 13. Judging by the turnout, they will be missed.

Fawcett was actually mulling retirement earlier this year when he was suddenly called into action at a World Cup in Valle Nevado, Chile.

Jaysey-Jay Anderson, Canada’s top rider and the reigning snowboard world champion, suffered a concussion in the snowboard cross event and was forced to withdraw from the parallel giant slalom on the following day.

Although Fawcett was only there to do a photo shoot and support his teammates, he decided he couldn’t let an open spot for Canada go to waste. He suited up, and after breezing through the qualifier and elimination rounds, found himself in second place with a silver medal around his neck.

The result tempted him to return to the World Cup circuit, but at last he decided it was time to retire.

"I’m still out there ripping, and will continue to do so, just not on the World Cup race circuit. I’m not doing it for the FIS anymore, but more for myself," said the 30-year-old Fawcett, who hails from Saint John, New Brunswick, and is currently based at Mt. Hood in Oregon.

According to Fawcett, racing was "becoming a bad habit, and at a high level like the World Cup it costs a fortune," he said. "Over the years it’s gone from a money-making career to the athletes having to pay money to continue with the habit.

"Don’t get me wrong, I still love to ride and had a blast, but it was time to move on."

In the future, Fawcett plans to build and market his own line of snowboards, called FOZZboards, which will be built at the Prior Snowboard factory in Whistler, and he is working on a snowboarding television show that could be picked up by the Outdoor Life Network.

There’s no question that in the18 years since he first donned a race bib, Fawcett has been a force for Canada in the world of snowboarding.

In his career, he has earned 14 World Cup titles, three U.S. Open championships, and has represented Canada in the Winter Olympics twice. At his first Olympic appearance, in 1998, he was almost a second ahead of the competition when the screws that hold his binding in place snapped and he crashed into a fence in sight of the finish line.

He was also a force on the now defunct International Snowboard Federation Circuit, winning several racing titles, and making dozens of podium appearances. In 1995, he was named the ISF’s Snowboarder of the Year.

For Darren Chalmers, the decision to retire was easier. After having four surgeries on the same knee in recent years, he decided it was time to give his joints a break.

"My body just couldn’t do it anymore," said the 32-year-old Whistler resident. "My knee has wanted to quit for a long time, I just wasn’t listening to it."

In 2000 Chalmers made headlines in Canada as the first snowboarder to be carded by Sports Canada, which made him eligible for $1,100 a month, plus other athlete benefits. Sport Canada gives assistance to athletes who score a top eight result in a world championship, and in 1999 he was seventh in the parallel giant slalom. Other athletes have since followed in his footsteps.

He started riding seriously soon after he moved to Whistler, after graduating from high school in Vancouver. He didn’t start racing until 1995, and within the next three years he had more than 20 top 15 finishes in World Cup alpine races. After snowboarding debuted at the 1998 Olympics – Chalmers was disqualified – he won his first World Cup at Oberstdorf, Germany. "To this day that World Cup victory remains as one of my life’s greatest accomplishments," wrote Chalmers on the Prior Snowboards Web site.

His best event over his years on the World Cup circuit is the snowboard cross, where he was ranked eighth in 1999, and seventh in 1997.

Now that he is retired, Chalmers will focus on his work with snowboarding camps, and on riding for himself.

"I’m still riding, I’m just not racing."

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