BY: Mark Kristofic and Gordie Bowles
Timing is everything.
Two days after a scathing column appeared in national daily newspapers – written by one of the best ski writers in the country – about the sad state of the Canadian men’s alpine team, Ottawa’s Dustin Cook jolted naysayers with a shocking silver medal run down one of the most difficult tracks in the world, The Birds of Prey at the 2015 FIS world championships super-G.
The article, titled “Men’s team in downward spiral” cited injuries, retirements, funding cuts and a thin feeder system, all as factors to a Canadian team that had no chance of success this week at Beaver Creek and Aspen.
“A medal would be a shock,” the author opined.
And long-time ski racing analyst for Sporstnet, Brian Stemmle – perhaps the biggest name and strongest voice in ski racing in Canada – was quoted in the article. “(Lowest point) in a long time. Even they would agree. They suck right now.”
Eating crow sucks too. Need some ketchup for that hat?
After Stemmle re-posted on his Facebook page, a firestorm ensued.
Comments ranged from “everything sucks” to “yes there are challenges” and “there’s problems in coaching” to the flip side of “actually, you’re wrong, the future is pretty bright”.
Ironically, right now feels like what we went through in the 1990s after post-Games funding cuts, the men’s speed team felt like it was in despair when guys like Edi Podivinsky, Rob Boyd, and Stemmle himself were in the twilight of their careers and were plagued with injuries. It was also a time that youngsters Jan Hudec, Erik Guay and Manny Osborne-Paradis were waiting in the development wings.
There was a real void in the system, but the future was not bleak, as we have come to know. In fact, at that time nobody yet even knew the name of the winningest skier in Canadian history (Guay).
Then, like now, well-known veterans were in the twilight of their career while the next crop of ski racers had not yet stepped up to the world podium.
Then, like now, people were very quick to talk about what a disaster Canadian ski racing was.
Now, unlike then, we have a world championships silver medallist.
The reality is that alpine ski racing does have its challenges. Its too expensive, private and government funding is tight, participation at younger levels has issues that need to be addressed, coaching education needs to be improved … and the list goes on and on.
But there are a lot of smart and passionate people who are working hard, and as long as the system keeps egos aside and fights through the BS to do what is best for the athletic development at all ages, we will be just fine.
Maybe that is easier said than done.
Paul Kristofic (yes the last name is the same!), VP of sport for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, put a brave face on in the article. Admitting that they had challenges and injuries, and that the world championships would be tough. But he also noted that there are some bright spots.
Here’s the bigger issue. Not a single mention of today’s accomplishments in the sports update on Fan 590. TSN Sportsdesk … nadda. CBC Sports. Nope. What the hell? That is what we should be up in arms about.
What ski racing really needs is a loud-and-proud voice that is an ally for the sport. Commentary needs to be as objective as possible, tough and brutally honest, but once the line is crossed into the seemingly bitter domain, you risk losing not only readers and viewers but the fans and future fans.
We close this blog with thoughts from the Man of the Day.
“That’s (winning the medal) the best way to refute what some of the Canadian press was saying,” Dustin Cook said in today’s finish area to the media. “We are definitely an under appreciated sport in Canada. I hope this will get some media attention and get the word out there that just because some of our top guys are unfortunately injured that we’re not down and out. We still have good guys that are coming up.”