As the Winter Olympics came and went four years ago, Crispin Lipscomb's competitive career looked to be over. Now, the local snowboarder is one good result away from getting back to the Games.
Lipscomb, who originally quit competing in halfpipe weeks prior to the 2010 Games, currently sits 20th in the men's World Cup rankings after coming out of retirement to take a run at qualifying for Sochi. The last World Cup that will help determine who's headed to the Olympics begins on Thursday, Jan. 16 at Stoneham, Que., and Lipscomb heads into it as Canada's second-ranked rider, lurking just behind national team veteran Brad Martin (currently 18th).
"I wanted to just get out there and have fun and test myself and it's been really cool to be right back in the fold in the top 20," Lipscomb said Tuesday, Jan. 14 from Quebec, adding that his performances this season have showcased "some of the biggest and best riding I've ever done."
Lipscomb has been working with Squamish's Katie Tsuyuki as both have chased down a spot at the Olympics without any funding help from Canada Snowboard.
"We've been doing a really interesting job of being coach-letes," laughed Lipscomb, 34. "We've been sharing the coaching and the riding kind of back and forth and it's been rewarding."
The level of riding has stepped up considerably since Lipscomb stopped competing back in 2010, but after nearly four full years away, the 2006 Olympian has made his way back to being competitive with the best in the world all over again.
"I didn't want to go out super hard getting caught up in the single tricks that are necessary, so I was able to build up the skills and build up the amplitude, which is really important," he said. "I've just been able to keep adding the 180s every contest to bring up the spins and get up there."
The Canadian snowboard team for Sochi will be finalized on Tuesday, Jan. 21, and while some Olympic hopefuls have been spending the past few months crunching the numbers to figure out their chances, Lipscomb hasn't been paying much attention to those details.
"I've just been smiling, having fun, living in the process and it's been paying off," he said. "Watching some of these guys get all stressed out... I think when you commit 100 per cent and your whole life is wrapped up in these results, you can take them quite personally.
"It can be easy to get caught up and carried away. But I look back and I see myself in all these young riders. A bunch of these kids are literally half my age, so it's a lot of fun being able to share my perspective."
Because Lipscomb has been paying out-of-pocket for training and travelling to World Cups this season — as well as having to replace both his training and competition boards along the way — the costs have become significant. A fundraiser in support of his comeback has been organized at the Longhorn Saloon for Jan. 22.
"My approach this time with no sponsors and no funding and doing it for fun has sort of run out of steam, so we have to be honest about the costs and the huge expenses over the last 12 months or so," he said.
The event will get underway at 7 p.m.
With the fundraiser scheduled for the day after the team announcement, the event could be either a Sochi send-off or the end of a valiant comeback attempt. Whatever the result, Lipscomb said he'll be able to look back on his and Tsuyuki's efforts this winter with pride.
"I'm proud of how we went about it and how we represented Canada and ourselves," he said. "It's just been a great experience."