Anderson: Ready to go

Snowboarder says athlete funding for 2010 Games has made all the difference

Jasey-Jay Anderson said it wasn’t until Canada was chosen to host the Games that he was given access to proper resources. (Courtesy Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Originally published on CBCSports.ca on Feb. 27, 2010.

By Lindsey Craig

Correction: Never tell him that.

The 34-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., has spent more than half his life with a snowboard strapped to his feet.

And if he knows anything, it’s while an athlete’s physical and mental state are important, what’s also crucial is having the tools necessary to compete.

“For the last three Olympics, my head was as right as it could be, and what plagued me was equipment. I would put my whole body in the fire and say that a thousand times over: ‘It was equipment, not me,'” he said.

Vancouver 2010 will be Anderson’s fourth and final Olympic Games— and it’s the first time in 20 years he feels adequately prepared.

“With this one, I’m at the forefront as far as equipment … and that’s exactly where I wanted to be my whole career … But it had to take an Olympics in my country to get this done.”

What Anderson’s referring to is the spike in funding for 2010 athletes. With the announcement that the Games would take place in Vancouver came a flood of initiatives to ensure Canadians would be contenders.

So far, it’s paying off.

Anderson is the 2009 world champion in his Olympic event, the parallel giant slalom (PGS). And on the 2009 World Cup circuit, he’s reached the top of the podium twice and won bronze.

‘No evolution’

Anderson credits his success to the increased support. Until recently, he said snowboarders were virtually left on their own to find proper resources.

“When you compare it to ski racing, where they have complete industry support…they have the materials, the minds, everything is set up,” he said.

Not so in snowboarding.

“It’s all about style and image and what your snowboard looks like. There’s been absolutely no evolution in snowboard performance,” Anderson said.

“It’s all about style and image and what your snowboard looks like. There’s been absolutely no evolution in snowboard performance,” he said.

But with Canada hosting the Games, programs like Own the Podium began pumping funds to athletes and sport federations— giving Anderson and his teammates a new world of possibilities.

“If you don’t have the money, you have to think inside a certain box, and if funds are available, you can think outside that box and go beyond it,” he said. “That’s what happened this time around. We did all these extra little steps, and they’ve been working out.”

Boots and bindings, which usually cost him a few thousand dollars a season, have been provided by YYZ Canucks, a Toronto-based distributor. The company modified the gear to suit Anderson’s specifications.

His board was manufactured by a Swiss company, which Canadian athletes couldn’t access until this year. And Toronto-area Apex Composites helped develop a unique plate system.

“It’s proving to be the new piece of technology where you can gain percentages,” Anderson said of the base plate, which connects the snowboard to the rider’s bindings. “So that was priceless.”

Breaking loose

Feeling encouraged has been a long time coming. Equipment woes and a lack of resources almost led Anderson to retire four times.

Staying with the sport is what he’s most proud of.

“Just being hard headed and sticking to my convictions,” he said. “For nine years I was told, ‘It’s you, not the equipment,’ and I had to break loose of that system.”

Anderson’s perseverance has been a lesson for his 23-year-old teammate, Mike Lambert.

“Looking at Jasey, you can see that becoming best in world is not an overnight game, it’s something that takes years,” he said.

“He’s got a lot of discipline. He’s always searching for ways to be better, with his equipment, with his riding, he’s constantly driven.”

Competing at the Olympics will certainly be no exception. Anderson hopes to repeat his recent World Cup success at the Games.

“A career, especially when you get four shots at it, is more complete with an Olympic medal,” he said.

But just as he’s ready for Olympics, he’s also ready to say goodbye. The 2010 World Cup season will also be his last, he said.

“An athlete’s life is very, very selfish. I’m tired of it. Hundreds of people have helped me in the last 20 years … it’s time to give back,” he said.

‘Two different worlds’

One way of doing that will be focusing on another chapter in his life. Anderson is married and has two daughters— Jy, 3, and Jora, 4.

“It’s two different worlds, being loving, caring husband and father and then hard-ass competitor. It’s really tough,” he said.

Being a family man in the snowboarding world may have been more difficult if Anderson wasn’t so clean-cut.

“Before I had kids, I went through life as though I wanted to be an example for my kids, and now I live my life in the same way,” he said.

It’s likely why he was able to maintain a relationship with his wife, Manon— who he’s been with since age 18— throughout more than a decade of World Cup seasons filled with all sorts of temptations.

When asked about temptations on the World Cup circuit, Anderson said,

“When you have the best thing waiting for you at home…you don’t even consider anything else.”

“When you have the best thing waiting for you at home, or wherever, you don’t even consider anything else,” he said. “I confirmed that time and time again, that Manon was the best thing in my life.”

His family is part of the reason he stopped competing in snowboard cross, which he considers more dangerous than alpine.

“When you race with other people … you’re basically putting your life in other people’s hands,” he said.

As for what he’ll do post-snowboarding, for one, he’ll continue working the blueberry farm he and Manon began after the 2006 Olympics (intended as a retirement project).

Beyond that, there are thoughts of coaching, and reconnecting with his artistic side (he studied art at Montreal’s John Abbot College).

But there’s much to do between then and now.

Looking to the Vancouver Games, he said, “I’d love to podium, but you never know what can happen… as long as I’m as prepared as I can be, I’m happy.”

Author’s note: Jasey-Jay Anderson won a gold medal in the PGS event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He is now retired and living with his wife, Manon, and their children at the family’s blueberry farm near Mont-Tremblant, Que.

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