"Creative thinking may simply be the realization that there is no particular virtue in doing things the way they've always been done."
- Rudolph Flesch, Educator
He made it look easy. But there was absolutely nothing easy - or simple - about that particular stunt. When WVSC vet Johnny Lyall casually jumped through the Olympic rings and onto the country's TV screens last February during the Games' Opening Ceremonies (arguably the most dramatic event of the whole evening), the twentysomething rider became an instant celebrity. And rightfully so.
Think of all the things that could have gone wrong with that sequence. A bad take-off, a shaky leap, a wrong landing: the disaster scenarios are endless. But Lyall looked so cool, so calm and collected in the air, that most viewers totally underestimated the technical proficiency - or the hours of training - required to nail that jump. The guy had ice running through his veins. Nothing was going to touch him that night.
"It was done right," Lyall told a young reporter soon after the show. "And we were stoked on it. I think people are looking at it as a milestone for snowboarding now. It was such an honour for me. And I've heard so many nice things... people saying they're proud of me and that I represented Canada. It's just so cool that I was attached to that."
And it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, says his former coach Rob Picard. "He was the perfect person to do it," explains the founder and owner of the near-iconic Whistler Valley Snowboard Club. "He has such a great personality. I think he did an amazing job..."
But for Picard, Lyall's Olympic leap was more than just a great public spectacle. "Johnny's from that first generation of WVSC riders - you know, Tyler Massey, Tim Orr, Adam Friesen, Mikey Rencz, Mercedes Nichol - who really set the tone for the club."
He pauses for a breath. I can feel just by the energy in the air how much these kids mean to him. "They were amazing," he says. "Honestly - they could pretty much achieve whatever they wanted. We'd hit a contest in Silver Star or Sun Peaks or whatever and they'd come home with all the hardware. They had a reputation. They definitely set themselves up as the ones to beat..."
So how did it feel to see a WVSC alum light up the world's big screens last February? Picard laughs. "I was out snowmobiling that day - way out in the middle of nowhere - so I missed the show." By the time he got back to civilization his phone was ringing off the hook. "I had a million messages," he says. "Most of them were like: 'Is that really Johnny?' And I kept thinking to myself: 'Is that really Johnny doing what?'"