By Rosemary Westwood - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 0 Comments
He found peace in the mountains, like his dad, who died when Nick was growing up
Nicolas Thomas Voyer-Taylor was born Feb. 6, 1990, in Saskatoon, to Julie Voyer, a francophone school administrator, and Thomas Taylor, an anglophone stockbroker. He had a brother, Gaëtan, from Julie’s first marriage, and a sister, Rachelle. When Nicolas was 10 weeks old, the family moved to Winnipeg.
Nick, as he was known, loved basketball. As a child he “managed” his sister’s team, sitting on the bench beside his dad, the coach. He went on to play point guard for his dad at Winnipeg’s Shamrock School, and they spent endless hours shooting hoops on the back porch. “They were best friends,” says Rachelle. “They did everything together.” Tom also taught Nick to ski, and it was in the mountains where both were happiest, and found peace.
Nick grew up with four female cousins whom he treated like sisters. The families made an annual camping trip to Rushing River, Ont., where the kids would often fall asleep together, watching the stars. From a young age, he loved to cook—a creative outlet. “When he was in Grade 6,” says Julie, “one day I came home and found him sitting at the kitchen table, with three or four recipe books. ‘Mom,’ he said, ‘can I make supper tomorrow night?’ ” The next night, says Julie, he cooked chicken cordon bleu. “He didn’t start small, eh?” Continue…
By Ken MacQueen - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
Teaching kids to snowboard in Whistler, Trudeau found a place to emerge from his father’s shadow
He said his name was Justin—just another itinerant snowboard instructor at the Whistler-Blackcomb resort, there in the winter of 1997 for the crappy pay, occasional tips and the all-important mountain pass. He was assigned to Sean Smillie’s Ride Tribe boarding classes. Lord knows Smillie could use the help. “We’d juggle 100 little kids a day on the mountain, running round, chasing after them,” Smillie recalls 15 years later over a coffee in Vancouver’s Gastown.
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“If you can imagine, learning how to snowboard is about one of the funniest things in the world for a kid, so I had to have a really particular kind of staff,” says Smillie. This Justin guy, a student at the University of British Columbia, was studying to be a teacher. He was great with kids, was a gifted, if chaotic, boarder and clearly knew the terrain. Strange thing was this Justin boarded in a fireman’s jacket, at least until he got his official instructor’s uniform, which was . . . unusual. But, whatever, it’s Whistler, right?
Smillie and his instructors were all of similar age and disposition. Loved the kids, loved the social life, loved above all the downtime carving tracks on virgin snow on the most extreme runs on the two mountains. Smillie’s job was to cruise the classes, and help out where needed. “Justin always got the wild, crazy kids who were running all over the mountain. He was perfect for that, so I ended up working with him a lot, riding with him and the kids. We became buddies out of that.” Still, says Smillie, “I had no idea who he was, not for months and months. No clue.” When you’re young and you work at a resort like Whistler, you tend to live for the moment and the weather forecast; the past is parked outside the bubble. Finally someone mentioned that his buddy was the eldest son of ex-prime minister Trudeau. That Trudeau? “I kind of did the sudden stop—wait a minute!” Smillie says. “I just kind of asked him one day: ‘Is your father Pierre?’ And that was it.” Life went on as before.
By Jason Kirby - Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 4:38 PM - 13 Comments
The American snowboarder has launched half-pipe into a prime-time sport
Everything about Shaun White, the American snowboarder and one-man megabrand, is meticulously thought out and fine tuned. When he hurls himself into the air high above the 22-foot edges of a half-pipe course, each flip, spin and twist is the culmination of months of intense testing and training. White’s thriving business empire of video games, snowboard gear and clothing also demands acrobatic feats of marketing savvy to balance his sponsor-approved, squeaky-clean image with that of a guy who knows how to keep it real. In short, when it comes to White, very little is left to chance. So why is the dude sitting on the wrong bus just hours before his high-stakes Olympic competition?
It seems after navigating through the security perimeter that envelopes Cypress Mountain, White, 23, and the rest of the U.S. men’s half-pipe team have accidently boarded a media shuttle for the final leg to the venue. There’s no mistaking him, either. With his unruly mane of red hair, oversized teeth and wiry five-foot-eight frame—he’s been called “the flying tomato” but it’s a nickname he’s desperate to shake—White is by far the most recognizable athlete at the Vancouver Olympics. But if he’s at all nervous about his upcoming race, he doesn’t show it. He cranks the volume on his white iPhone, tapping it on his knee and filling the bus with a tune from the blues-rock band the Black Keys. Meanwhile the conversation is decidedly casual. “Somebody’s jamming the flute pretty hard on this song,” one of the Americans says. White seems almost giddy. “The half-pipe has gotten better and better every day,” he says to his teammates. “It should be great.”
When he gets off the media bus, everyone from volunteers to police officers have their cameras trained on him—most with strict marching orders from their kids to bring home a photo. That was the case with Greg Anderson, a teacher from Westport, Ont., who flew out to volunteer at the Games. As White got off the shuttle, Anderson snapped off a photo, then called his seven-year-old son’s school to give him the news. “The secretary put her phone up to the PA system and projected it into my son’s class that I got Shaun White’s photo for the kids at school,” he says. “I’ll be a hero.”
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 8:43 PM - 4 Comments
Will Canada’s Mercedes Nicoll soar above the Americans?
8:40 pm: Hey everybody. Twenty minutes to go. I’m still blown away by last night’s men’s final, aka the Shaun White show. But tonight could be even more exciting as there seems to be a real battle shaping up.
8:46 pm: Full disclosure. Before I became a boring business writer, I used to do a fair bit of snowboarding. But I have to say that the sport has really progressed since I hung up my Option board. So I apologize in advance if I miss some (all) of the tricks. Things were a LOT simpler back in the day.
8:49 pm: So, as I understand it, the U.S. thinks they can sweep the podium. And they do have four riders that are all very capable, including the defending gold medalist, Hannah Teter. Still, after watching some of the qualifying runs today, it looks like there could be some upsets in the works. Torah Bright of Australia did amazing and Canada’s Mercedes Nicolls snuck in during the semi finals. China’s Jiayu Liu also could be in the picture.
8:56 pm: Hmm…need to decide whether to watch NBC’s coverage or CTV’s. I noticed last night that NBC tended to cut away to commercials when the Americans weren’t riding, but their camera work was a lot better. But hockey is on CTV’s main channel right now, so I may have no choice.
9:00 pm: Going with NBC. They just said one of the riders that was supposed to be there was taken to the hospital. Here goes Swiss rider Ursina Haller. Not a bad run, but she’s going to need to go higher than that. She also hung on the lip on one of her airs. Score is pretty low.
9:02 pm: Next up. France. Sophie Rodriguez. 900 off the top. fakie air. And a little switch fakie grab at the end. Wow. That first 900 was pretty big on the replay.
9:04 pm: Here come the Americans. Elena Hight. I’m not sure I like the U.S. uniforms, with the plaid jackets and snowpants that look like jeans. Anyway. Big method. 900. Another 900 and a 720. Oh. She hit the top of the pipe.
9:13 pm: And we’re back. A little technical glitch there. China’s Jiayu Liu currently in first place.
9:14 pm: I like that the U.S. announcers don’t say the word “amplitude.” The Canadian announcers can’t seem to stop saying it. I have never heard any snowboarder talk about amplitude. Oh, another American is up. Gretchen Bleiler, silver medalist in 2006. Big 900. Backside 540. Followed by a huge inverted 720 — right to the flat bottom, unfortunately. Yikes.
9:17 pm: And Hannah Teter, also of the USA and defending gold medalist. Big backside air. 900. backside five . Another straight air. Some more stuff in between that I didn’t catch. Good clean run though…..and now she’s in first place with 42.4. I have no idea how they judge this stuff.
9:20 pm: And Kelly Clark, also of the U.S., who likes to sing on the platform while listening to her iPod. Big frontside air. Big 540 She’s going huge…but landed the last one in the flat bottom.
9:22 pm: Here comes Torah Bright, who apparently has been trying the double cork, which has apparently never been done in women’s competition. And…she went down on her third hit. She was amazing in the qualifiers though. She has a really smooth yet technical style.
9:24 pm: One other note on Clark’s iPod. I was never a big fan of listening to music while snowboarding. I always found it distracting. You’re on top of this beautiful mountain after all. Why do you need bring electronic toys with you? Plus my toque would push the earbuds into my ears, painfully. Maybe they’ve since worked that problem out.
9:27 pm: Just realized I missed Mercedes Nicoll during my technical problem. And now NBC is doing a promo for the U.S. snowboard team. Looking for Canadian coverage.
9:31 pm: No luck. I will hand it to the Americans though….they really have a way of making everything on TV look epic. They really know what they’re doing what it comes to that stuff.
9:33 pm: While we’re waiting for the second run to start, I would just like to say that the half pipe is huge.
9:35 pm: Anyone else think it’s creepy how they show the riders faces on that giant video screen?
9:36 pm: Torah Bright. Good run this time around with a switch backside 720. “insanely technical run,” says the announcer. That backside 7 was crazy…..She’s in first!!
9:37 pm: Gretchen Bleiler of the USA. Big 900 to backside 500. And a huge something or other!! Oh no. She hit the lip on the way down. That looked painful. I think she’s out.
9:39 pm: She is indeed out. And another commercial. I think it’s kind of lame that none of the Canadian channels are showing this. In a lot of ways, this is a better competition than the men’s was.
9:42 pm: Elena Hight of the US. Down half way through the run. So now the American’s have just two riders left. I guess there will be no sweep of the podium tonight.
9:43 pm: Singing Kelly Clark up again. I wonder what she’s listening to. Oh…she’s adjusting the iPod. I think she’s singing “Love me, you shall.” Here she goes. Pretty good run with big 900 at the end, but she kind of lost momentum in the middle.
9:45 pm: I should have titled this blog post: Will Canada’s Mercedes Nicoll get any airtime on NBC? They just cut to commercial again. I mean, I can appreciate that four of the 12 riders are from the U.S., but maybe American viewers would like to get a glimpse of who they are competing against? This is brutal.
9:48 pm: Hey a non-American! Sun Zhifeng of China. She’s struggling, but landed everything. I like China’s non-crazy uniforms. Plain red.
9:50 pm: Mercedes is up!! Big 540…..oh no! She went out too far and fell into the bottom of the pipe on her next trick. Apparently, the best she can do is 6th. So Canada is out of medal contention.
9:53 pm: The riders are starting to go for it as they see their chances slipping away. France’s Sophie Rodriguez went for a 1080 right off the bat and crashed.
9:54 pm: China up again. Jiayu Liu. Huge backside method. And a huge 540. Backside 540, but she kind of messed up a trick in mid air.
9:55 pm: Now its Australia’s Torah Bright versus USA’s Hannah Teter for gold. Hannah is up. I really don’t like the fake jean snowpants, complete with rips. Gimmicky. She looks good on this run though. Big straight air. 900 and 540, but she’s really struggling to get out of the pipe by the end of the run. I think Torah has it.
9:56 pm: Yup. Teter Silver, Clark the bronze and Torah Bright of Australia gets the gold. She totally deserved it.
9:57 pm: And Bob Costas doesn’t hesitate to make a joke about a woman from “down under” that ”goes up and over ” in the halfpipe. Anyway…thanks for tuning in. That was a lot of fun. Back to my day job.
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 1:24 AM - 3 Comments
Thanks to his signature Double McTwist 1260, White has a nearly-perfect run
He came, he conquered, and the crowd got everything they could have hoped for. Shaun White, known as the Flying Tomato for his long red locks, twisted and flew his way to gold on the men’s halfpipe snowboard event at Cypress Mountain. His final score was a near-perfect 48.4 out of 50.
“I just feel so happy to put down that last run, it was the best run of my life,” he told reporters in an impromptu press conference on the mountain. “It’s the world stage, why not deliver something spectacular.”
On the bus up to the event, White, a multi-millionaire who owns his very own personal halfpipe in his backyard, had told his fellow boarders on the American team the site here had been getting better and better each day, predicting it would be great for today’s event. As it turned out, he was bang on. For all the griping about snow, or the lack thereof, on Cypress, several boarders said the halfpipe was in perfect condition. “The halfpipe on the first day was one of the worst of my life, but by today it was one of the best of my life,” White said.
But watching White soar through the cold night sky, one gets the impression the guy could turn in a medal performance on shaving cream.
White admitted his hands were shaking at the top of the pipe. He said he’d never felt as nervous as he did before his final run of the day. There was intense pressure on him to perform, with not just his country but the entire world of boarding watching his every move. But after successfully landing his trademark move, the Double McTwist 1260, his victory was cemented.
The silver went to Peetu Piiroinen of Finland, who scored a 45.0, while bronze went to American Scott Lago, with a 42.8. The two snowboarding medals made today the most successful day in Winter Olympic history for the U.S., with 6 medals in total.
Canadian Justin Lamoureux turned in Canada’s best-ever Olympic showing in the men’s halfpipe. He placed 7th overall after a strong and clean run, besting by far his 21st place showing in Turin four years ago.
The 33-year old boarder more than held his own against many of his younger competitors—the youngest of whom was a tender 15. Careful with the subject of age around Lamoureux, though. “What, are you calling me old?” he said afterwards. But even he acknowledged the age difference. “It’s my sport, I’ve been doing it since some of these guys were born.”
Maybe, but tonight the halfpipe was thoroughly owned by White.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 6:52 PM - 1 Comment
Can anyone dethrone Shaun White?
This liveblogging event will begin at 10:15 p.m.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the men’s halfpipe finals, otherwise known as the Shaun White coronation ceremony. It’s a balmy four degrees. Justin L: the only Canadian up now.
Lamoureux had a very nice, very smooth run. Wow.
Koski: a last minute sub on the team knocks down the Canadian.
French Riders + team have painted on the French stereotype. Does he know that ain’t gonna watch off?
Board judges: interesting that they score more on landings than on size of air.
Scotty Lago: so good, the TSN guy gave him a, ‘whoa, dude…’
Bretz: 19 years old, youngest team member. What were you doing when you were 19?
Oh, I bet it wasn’t wiping out in an Olympian halfpipe, whatever it was…
Goofy-footed riders are the devil’s work.
IPOD! What a run.
Purple pants are the devil’s work as well.
Vito: the closest to be out from under White’s shadow. So bloody smooth. Lordy.
It’s amazing to see the progression in technique and difficult from four years ago. You wonder how it gets any better to watch…
The second runs are going to be absolutely huge, given the number of whiteouts…
God good. It’s surreal to watch that guy: he’s smooth as everyone else, just the tricks are so much bigger.
Lamoureux is still a contender. He just has to go huge next run…
Malin: death by double cork.
Bretz: yet another death by double cork. More likely that Lamoureux will own the podium by attrition.
Another death by cork! Lordy!
Kokubo: big ol’ McTwist coming up…
More cork death!
So many wipeouts…
Lovely (but corkless) run for Lamoureux.
No Canadian medal here.
Oh well. King Shaun!
Vito’s run: gorgeous. That seemed an awfully low score…
That run by Peetu was game changer. Amazing.
IPOD: this is the only game left. No medal.
More cork death. All hail King Shaun.
Goddam. Incredible. Double McTwist 1260. Bonkers.
By Ken Macqueen and Nicholas Köhler - Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 6:00 AM - 21 Comments
Maclean’s exclusive: An inside look at our high-tech, mind-bending plans to dominate the podium at the 2010 Games
In early December, Bob Joncas, the high-performance manager for the Canadian Snowboard Federation, boarded a jet for Switzerland. In the cargo hold, rolled into a heavy bag, was the result of three years of hush-hush research, development and testing. Joncas was bound for a mountainside factory in Braunwald to deliver a secret weapon of sorts, one of dozens of clandestine products and tactics that Canadian athletes will deploy in February at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.
Joncas presented the bag’s contents to Hansjürg Kessler, considered by many elite athletes as the world’s best custom snowboard maker. Kessler was at work on a special Olympic order for the Canadian national team—tailored-to-measure boards with at least two significant modifications from any he has ever made. One was a super low-friction base, to be applied to the bottom of the boards from a 30-m roll of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene that Joncas carried from Canada. The other is a composite plate for bindings that is so revolutionary Canada’s boarders have hidden it under duct tape and MACtac during their frequent appearances on World Cup podiums this winter.
The base, which alpine boarders won’t use until Games time, cuts friction by 15 to 20 per cent compared to commercially available products, its creators say. “Small differences can be huge,” says Christos Stamboulides, the University of British Columbia researcher who formulated the product. Less friction equals more speed, and perhaps a podium finish, says project supervisor Savvas Hatzikiriakos, a specialist in fluid mechanics and friction. “In the last Olympics, Canada won a lot of fourth places,” he says. “Nobody remembers the fourth-place athletes.”
That quest for those small differences is what drives the aptly named Top Secret project—a five-year, $8-million technological arms race unprecedented in Canadian sport history. Researchers across the country have been breaking down the science of winter sport, looking for any edge in training, human performance and equipment. “To date, we’ve completed 55 projects, using 17 different universities and institutions,” says Todd Allinger, the Vancouver-based biomechanist who manages the program. “I think it’s been very successful.” Now, a month from the Olympic opening ceremonies, Maclean’s takes an exclusive inside look.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 10:40 AM - 11 Comments
Olympic gold medallist Ross Rebagliati on why he’s not competing, Ignatieff, his new book and what his campaign song might be
Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati hit the big time at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, where he won gold and then had his medal taken away after testing positive for marijuana. By the time the IOC overturned its decision five days later—on the technicality that pot was not explicitly banned in Olympic competition—he was a worldwide celebrity. Now, more than a decade later, the 38-year-old is hoping to parlay his fame into a seat in Parliament.
Q: A couple of years ago, you were talking about making a comeback for the Vancouver 2010 Games. What happened to that idea?
A: Nothing happened to the idea, but the process to get back onto the national team put me right back at the junior level, competing against 15-year-olds. It wasn’t the sort of World Cup competition I needed, and the cost of it was more than I was able to come up with at the time. That made a comeback virtually impossible.
Q: Did you actually end up racing against 15-year-olds?
A: Oh yeah. I travelled down to Colorado and did a couple of races at Copper Mountain. And I made plans to go over to Europe and compete in the Europa Cup, the circuit below the World Cup. I felt like my riding was at a point where I would have quickly been able to get back to the level I needed to be at. But I just wasn’t able to enter into those races based on the system we have in Canada. In other countries, if you’re an ex-gold-medallist, you automatically have a spot on the national team. But to come back from retirement in Canada isn’t as easy. Continue…