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For God and Country

Canadian skiers have blown it at these games. No matter the cause of this failure, no one is pointing fingers at the ladies’ coach. He’s all but failure-proof. Why?
posted: 02/25/2010
Emily Brydon, post-race.

Rob Boyd needs a hug. Whistler’s legendary son and coach of the Canadian women’s alpine team can’t be happy about his athletes’ total failure. Racer after racer has laid eggs. Reubens started her race way ahead then missed a gate. Brydon crashed. The top finisher has been Britt Janyk—a 6th place in the downhill—and everything else has been mid-way through the top 30. According to a well-known journalist who covers ski racing and wisely asked to remain anonymous, the women are an “Olympic embarrassment.”

“I’ve never seen them ski so poorly,” he said. “Emily Brydon was in the back seat. I knew she was going to crash well before it happened. Janyk is nowhere. This is a disaster.”

This comes on the heels of a well-known campaign in Canada, the Own The Podium program, which partners with the private sector to pony up enough athlete funding not just to participate but to win. Mid-way through the games, due in part to poor alpine performances, the campaign was officially abandoned. Freeskier Chris Davenport, who is working as the live ski commentator for the Olympics, shook his head when asked about the Canadian alpine skiers. “They aren’t skiing well for their coach, that’s for sure.”

Tomorrow is the second-last day for the women to actually make coach Boyd proud when GS resumes. Not that they need to for Boyd’s sake. As a bone fide local legend, Boyd looms large in Whistler. In 1989, Boyd, who was known as “Kid Canada,” won the Whistler downhill and became the first and only Canadian racer to ever win World Cup gold at his home hill. Shortly after his win, Whistler re-named a street Rob Boyd Way. The green street signs have been stolen by locals more than once and the town has been forced to make replacements. And 20 years after his win, Boyd inspired “Favorite Son: Rob Boyd is God,” a short film created for a local filmmaking contest.

Mike Douglas, a pro skier who casts as long a shadow as Kid Canada, is Boyd’s neighbor and friend. “It’s hard for him right now,” says Douglas. “He’s got a history of doing well at everything he does so it’s tough to have this happen in his hometown. There’s a lot of expectations.”

The town had high hopes for a team composed equally of upstarts and veterans, especially under Boyd’s watch. Everyone knows Boyd can win. And, according to Douglas, Whistlerites want him to succeed.

“He’s a good, likable Canadian guy,” says Douglas. “He’s not a robot like some other high-profile types and doesn’t give off that star vibe. He just likes to get out there and ski. He doesn’t want to stand out, but you can spot him a mile a way from that huge chin of his.”

But what of Boyd’s stature in Whistler? What happens if the women’s alpine team continues to underperform?

“I’m sure Boyd will be fine,” says Douglas. “He probably hasn’t had to pay for a drink since 1989.”

 

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