It was Anthony Crute's tragic death that led to Crispin Lipscomb walking away from competitive snowboarding back in 2010. When his close friend passed away at just 36 years old, Lipscomb saw his passion for the sport disappear and other priorities in life eclipsing his desire to compete against the world's best halfpipe riders.
So when Lipscomb was named to the Canadian Olympic team on Tuesday, Jan. 21 — five years and one day since Crute's passing — his old buddy quickly came to mind.
"Yesterday was the day we celebrate Anthony's life, and it was all pretty cool going into today's news with that on my mind," Lipscomb said Tuesday, shortly after he was officially introduced as an Olympian all over again.
"I thought of him, definitely, as having a proud smile looking down, if there is such a thing."
Lipscomb and fellow Whistler halfpipe rider Mercedes Nicoll were both included on the Canadian snowboard team headed to Sochi when final nominations were announced Tuesday in Quebec City. Other Sea to Sky-based athletes, including halfpipe riders Katie Tsuyuki and Alexandra Duckworth and snowboard cross racer Rob Fagan were also named to the team Tuesday, while local product and 2010 gold medallist Maëlle Ricker had already earned her nomination to the snowboard cross squad earlier this winter.
Coaching Tsuyuki is what brought Lipscomb back to competition in the first place. But with Tsuyuki not holding national team status, the only way Lipscomb was going to be able to join her at the Olympics was to qualify for the Games himself.
"When we heard 12 months ago that we were not going to be able to have me there coaching her, the attitude instantly became, 'Fine, we'll qualify my coach and he'll stand there with his athlete credentials,' and that's what we achieved," he said. "We're very proud."
Lipscomb last went to the Olympics in 2006, placing 11th. He fell short of qualifying for the 2010 Games in the year after Crute died and announced he was retiring before those Olympics got underway.
Now 34, and with a new outlook influenced by his studies in Buddhism, Lipscomb is heading to Sochi with a much different approach compared to his other Olympic appearance at Torino.
"The first time I went to the Olympics, it was to go big and to get laid," he said. "The second time (I tried to qualify) it was to get famous and get paid, and that didn't work out.
"This time it was a more appropriate, human pursuit of excellence, goal-setting and achieving a task. I think it's more fulfilling, it's healthier and there's a lot more honour in it for me this time."
Lipscomb said he's also not going with any "outcome goals" in mind. Instead, he'll simply be trying to put the best riding he's capable of on display.
"I'm going to take the handbrake off, snip the brake line and go faster and higher than I've ever gone in my life because this will be my last opportunity to play at this level."
Since Lipscomb and Tsuyuki have been doing their training parallel to the national team program, without any funding or sponsorship, a benefit took place Wednesday night, Jan. 22 at the Longhorn Saloon, while Lipscomb has also set up an Indiegogo crowdfunding page to help him cover some of the costs he's facing.
NICOLL HEADED TO THIRD OLYMPICS
For Nicoll, the pressure of Olympic qualifying periods has been more stressful than competing in the Games themselves, and it was exactly like that for her again this year. So slipping on her official Team Canada jacket felt like "a giant weight" coming off the 30-year-old's shoulders on Tuesday.
"I think it's a massive relief that I didn't realize. I hadn't been riding very well the last couple of contests, and I'm now realizing after my third time that it's really stressful," she laughed.
Nicoll said the uncertainty around whether or not she'd make it to Sochi left her playing it safe in the final qualifier at Stoneham, Que., earlier this month "rather than fall and possibly not make it." But the sixth-place finisher at the 2010 Olympics said she could head into Russia looking to be a little more aggressive with her runs.
"It definitely seems to happen like that every year — I don't do well in the last couple of qualifier events," she said. "But then I get into February I'm like, 'Oh yeah, I can snowboard again. I know what I'm doing.'"
Nicoll said these Games won't necessarily be any more special than her last two trips to the Olympics, but having been there before should have her better prepared once competition is underway.
"I just want to be confident that I throw down the best run I think I can... and obviously I'd like to make the finals again," she said. "Time will tell. Women's snowboarding is progressing quite quickly and it's amazing to be a part of it. We'll see what happens when I get there."
Nicoll added that she's impressed with the strength of the Canadian team overall. With five athletes having already been named to the team weeks ago, Tuesday's announcement introduced the remaining 19 riders who will be competing in Russia.
Others who were added to the team on Tuesday included alpine racers Jasey-Jay Anderson, Caroline Calvé, Matt Morison Michael Lambert, Ariane Lavigne and Marianne Leeson; snowboard cross riders Dominique Maltais, Kevin Hill and Jake Holden; slopestyle competitors Charles Reid, Maxence Parrot and Jenna Blasman; and men's halfpipe riders Brad Martin and Derek Livingston.