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What it takes

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The winter is in full swing, yet the competitive snowboard season is off to a sluggish start. Perhaps the lack of snow in Europe last year scared resorts into holding events until later in the season. Whatever the case, the Canadian Snowboard Team is tuned up and ready to go.

My season started early, in Chile in September. We competed in two World Cup snowboardcrosses at the end of the month, and then had a huge break until mid December. The Jeep King of the Mountain pro events are back and the first stop was Telluride a couple of weeks ago. Both locations proved to be fruitful for Canadians, as we came home from South America with five podium results and made two more trips to the podium in Telluride.

It was a similar start for the halfpipe team. They rode in New Zealand in August and did a couple of contests, the New Zealand Open and a World Cup. After that, they also had to wait until mid December to get going again with a Grand Prix in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Our alpine team has had a bit more action on their plate. They raced in Europe in October at a couple of World Cups and have been in Nor-Am Cup races in Colorado in November. They finished 2007 with two more World Cup races in Europe before flying home for Christmas. I guess they have been the busiest of the three teams.

The slow competitive start allowed for more training in the off-season. We put in more hours on the little things that allow us to ride better. I spent a great deal of time with my teammates at the gym in North Vancouver bulking up for the season. Mercedes Nicoll and Drew Neilson were very familiar faces at Level Ten Fitness this summer and fall. I felt like a million bucks heading to the snow in South America, and it showed in my results.

Leaving Chile with a first and second place result was a huge relief in some ways. I’m glad I was able to perform with all the extra pressure that is being felt from the relentless quest to have Canadian athletes on the podium in the next couple of years heading into the Olympics. I didn’t want to have any bad results hanging over me for three months until I could compete in World Cup races again in January.

That applied pressure is only as big as an athlete makes it out to be. I know that I want to be able to perform on demand, especially when it comes down to Feb. 15, 2010. The extra support I am receiving as a snowboardcross athlete is helping to prepare me better for all possibilities and competitive circumstances. There are huge amounts of time and resources being spent on preparation, whether it’s improving my mental state during a long training block or the necessary tuning to my race boards.

But the one thing that keeps me ticking, more than all the extra help we’re getting this year, is my love for the mountains. It’s not that I don’t appreciate all the help and guidance to make me a better athlete, but beyond all the facts and figures I’ve been working on to improve my game is an underlying drive that is slowly surfacing in my riding. I feel this energy every time I step outside and breathe in fresh mountain air.

Being in the snowy forest brings out a certain emotion that motivates me to become a better athlete. I feel this sensation freeriding all the time, but now I can feel it at the top of a snowboardcross course. It’s the same sensation I felt when I was hiking this summer with my father in the Chilcotins, surrounded by the mountains and people who love to be there, too.

Connecting my freeriding world to my competitive world just might be the key to my progression this season. It’s what might help me through the finals, when before I would make it into the top four and then turn off.

Maybe this, combined with all the technical high performance athlete homework, will be what makes the difference between consistently being in the finals to consistently being on top of the podium… we will have to wait and see! Happy New Year!

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