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2010 Games training ground for Canada's 2014 chef de mission

Steve Podborski to lead athletes to the Russian Games in 2014



Steve Podborski is still a hometown Whistler boy at heart though he doesn't live here anymore and it was here he laid the groundwork for his newest Olympic role.

Podborski was named the Canadian team's chef de mission for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, a step up to the top job after being assistant chef de mission for the 2010 Olympics, based out of the Whistler athletes' village.

"I hardly remember Whistler," joked Podborski this week of the whirlwind two weeks that he was leader of the Canadian athletes in Whistler.

"As assistant chef you have all of the good stuff and not much of the hard stuff. I was watching Nathalie (Lambert, the chef de mission for the 2010 Games) and she was tremendous so it's a daunting challenge to think how I can step up as well."

Even more daunting given that the games will be in Russia, a far cry from his own backyard.

Podborski lived in Whistler for 20 years, raised his family here and now lives in Vancouver.

He was right at home in the 2010 athlete's village. For the Canadian team, there were no major language barriers, no major food or cultural issues to deal with, and it was a role he relished in as spokesperson, figurehead, and the go-to guy.

He's under no illusions it will be like that in Sochi.

Russia, Podborski said, is "super interesting."

"That's code word for challenging," he said.

"Russia is different from anywhere else; there's a different mindset there."

But he's not worried about the challenge ahead.

He calls it an "enormous responsibility" to lead Canada's team of athletes who will be on their own mission to bring home more medal hardware than ever before — more than the 26 they won at the Vancouver/Whistler Games.

That's about two dozen more than the Canadian team won when the 23-year-old Podborski brought home the first medal in skiing at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Games.

"It was a different time," he said simply.

Meanwhile, he is thinking about how he can meet the challenge of making sure the athletes can focus on their competition and not be impacted by the difficulties that come with going for gold in a place that's not like home.

"The challenge of course is to find a balance between embracing that and getting into it and still making sure you perform," said Podborski.

"They do their job and we do ours, and ours is going to be different, and possibly even tougher, than it was in Vancouver."