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Alta States

Lessons from the Games - Rob Boyd and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club



"Someone who asks a question is stupid for five minutes but someone who doesn't ask is stupid for life."

Traditional Chinese Proverb


For Canadian spectators, the 2010 Olympics was everything they'd dreamed about. Lots of gold for the home team. Lots of dramatic performances by under-promoted athletes. Lots of chest thumping and flag waving and fist pumping by the folks in the stands. It was a home-side party like few in this country have ever celebrated.

Alas, one national team failed to deliver at those Games. While their Snoweater colleagues - snowboarders, freestylers and skicrossers - were raking in the hardware like there was a fire sale on at Home Depot, Canada's once-vaunted alpine skiers left Sea to Sky country with their collective tail between their legs. Not one podium. A lot of mediocre skiing. Much finger pointing and head-ducking and blame-dodging among its leaders.

In short, it was a bit (well, maybe more than a bit) of an embarrassment for both staff and athletes of Alpine Canada. And no one - and I mean no one - took it harder than Whistler's favourite homeboy.

"That was a tough week," admits Rob Boyd. "In fact, it was a tough season all around." An assistant coach with the women's speed team (and the highest ranking Canadian on staff), Boyd watched in disbelief as his squad's carefully-planned four-year campaign came to a crashing conclusion on the slopes of Whistler Mountain that fateful February.

"It was hard to believe," he says. "We really thought we had it going there at one point..." Indeed - back in 2008, the Canadian speed women had been nearly untouchable. Led by Britt Janyk, Emily Brydon and Kelly Vanderbeek, Boyd's Beauties scored podium after podium that season. The future looked bright.

But then, nothing is ever "assured" in alpine ski racing.

There were many, many reasons for the team's sudden drop in performance. Year-ending injuries to both front-leaders and up-and-comers; communication issues between European and Canadian staff; a sense of panic in the team's front office (at one point in the season a highly-placed executive was heard to mutter "If only I could bubble wrap all these skiers until February 14..."); unreal expectations from media and supporters; motivation problems among some of the team veterans - they all played a role in the team's demise.

And nothing was going to change in the short term. By the time Boyd and his gals arrived at Whistler, the former World Cup champion knew they were in trouble. But there was little he could do by then. His only hope was to soldier on and hope for the best.

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