North Vancouver's Drew Neilsen announced the end of a 14-year snowboardcross career last week, as well as his intention to stay involved in the sport as the new technical coach for the Canadian Snowboard Team.
Neilsen was one of the most dominating men in the sport of snowboardcross, with 19 podium appearances is 62 World Cup races, including nine wins. He even won his first ever World Cup race, in Whistler in 1997. In 2007 he won the overall title and crystal globe for his sport.
Neilsen also made two Olympic appearances, but those races never seemed to go his way. In 2010 he placed 11th, although it was remarkable that he even made the Olympic squad after missing most of the two previous seasons following a wrist injury he sustained while mountain biking on the North Shore.
Now 36 and a married father of two, Neilsen decided it was time for a new challenge - preparing the next generation of Canadian athletes for the World Cup, World Championships and 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
"I am definitely looking forward to this new chapter in my life," he said in a statement this week. "Having the opportunity to remain involved in the sport that I love most will be great for me. We have a great team and a solid group of promising riders and I feel that my knowledge and success in the sport can be helpful in their careers.
"The friendships that I have maintained and valued while competing all over the world the last 14 years will stay with me forever, and I am thankful for all of the opportunities that I have had throughout my career."
Neilsen's career actually predates the FIS snowboardcross circuit. His resume includes several wins on the ISF Swatch Bordercross Tour. In addition to World Cups, he was also a regular in pro events and has gold medals from the ESPN Winter X Games and Gravity Games to his credit, as well as the overall title from the Jeep King of the Mountain World Pro Tour.
Snowboardcross Head Coach Marcel Mathieu welcomed Neilsen to the coaching team.
"We are really excited to have Drew joining our coaching crew," he said. "He is well respected by the riders, both current national team riders and upcoming stars. He has tremendous hands-on experience in the sport, and we feel that his addition to the coaching staff will help improve our riders."
The snowboardcross team was a highlight for Canada in the 2010 Games, with Sea to Sky riders Maëlle Ricker winning the gold medal and Mike Robertson taking the silver in the men's event. Also, Rob Fagan finished fifth while Francois Boivin was 12th, giving Canada four athletes in the top 12.