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When Jasey-Jay Anderson watched the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, he had no interest in coming to Sochi in 2014.
He’d won just about everything in snowboard slalom, including a gold medal in Vancouver, and competing in Russia four years on just didn’t look appealing. It was time to retire.
“I remember the closing ceremonies, watching the presentation for Sochi and in my heart I said there is no way I am going to that,” Anderson said last weekend. “It looked so dry to me.”
Anderson, 38, didn’t stay retired for long. Instead, he made a hard-fought comeback during which he has injured his neck, started a new business, and tried to find time to teach his young daughters how to snowboard. He arrived in Sochi last Friday with the rest of the alpine snowboard team, which includes medal hope Caroline Calvé of Aylmer, Que.
“To be honest, I retired in 2010,” Anderson said. “When I came back there were many reasons and winning was not at the top of the list. … I’m still capable of winning there’s no problem there.”
His comeback started with the injured neck, which happened in 2011. He lost muscle strength on his left side and rehab didn’t go well because he had just started a business making snowboards. “It got me to thinking to get back into shape I had to have motivation, something to give me a kick in the butt. The only thing I could do was snowboarding.”
That led to competing once more and qualifying for the Sochi Olympics, all while juggling his business and family life at home in Mont-Tremblant, Que.
He’ll be riding on one of his own boards in Sochi, but isn’t sure what to expect. He hasn’t had a top-10 finish in the World Cup circuit this season, and he skipped the last race to go home, train and build boards.
“I have no idea. The boards are riding fantastic but I haven’t had a result in four years, so it’s really tough to say,” he said. “I could totally just come out and really do well or I could just get last.”
The slalom snowboarding competition has been expanded in Sochi, and includes a parallel slalom along with the traditional parallel giant slalom. The events are similar in that two riders race down a course with a series of gates, the main difference is the GS is on a longer course and the gates are farther apart.
Calvé, 35, finished 20th in Vancouver but turned her career around a year later with a World Cup victory in Italy, the first for a Canadian female. She won again last year, in Russia, and finished the 2012-13 season ranked third in the world.
Calvé credits her turnaround to regular sessions with a sports psychologist, who has taught her to shut out distractions and focus only on her race. “I’m ready,” she said last Saturday.
For Anderson, the work involved in just getting to Sochi, makes the 2014 Games different from 2010. He still seems not entirely sold on Sochi, remarking during a test competition here a year ago, “people were mean and just not smiling and I wasn’t looking forward to coming here.”
His attitude about the city has changed since he arrived, although he still wonders about the cost of the Games. “I think they blew their budget a little too much,” he said referring to the reported $50-billion (U.S.) price tag.
After the Olympics, he plans to head home and finally teach his daughters, ages 8 and 7, to snowboard.
“They’ve been asking me for two years. They are really keen on trying it. I haven’t taken them yet,” he said. “I can’t wait. I hope they like it.”
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