5 Questions With: Spencer O’Brien

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Photo credit:  Peter Maxwell Morning

As a kid, I always dreamed of going to the Olympic Games. How special must it be to represent your country and compete against the top athletes in the world? Spencer O’Brien made her Olympic debut last year in Sochi, Russia where she represented Canada in the slopestyle discipline and placed 12th overall. Watching her compete at both the Olympics and also the Winter X Games, I’ve always been impressed by her calm and laid back attitude. She always seemed like such a positive and cool competitor. Last weekend, I had the privilege of meeting and working out with Spencer during the Nike Women 15k race weekend in Toronto. I must say, she is just as amazing in person! Spencer will be heading to the Southern Hemisphere to resume training later this summer. Her next goal: learning a 1080, 3 full rotations! Couldn’t be more stoked that she took a few minutes to chat with me last weekend. Hope you’ll enjoy my 5 Questions With Spencer O’Brien:

1) What first got you into snowboarding?

I’m from Vancouver Island originally so we grew up in a town that’s close to Mount Washington, which is the only resort on the island. We just started skiing as a family, so it was something to do with my family on the weekends. I eventually had the choice to continue skiing or start snowboarding, so I followed in my sister’s footsteps and took up snowboarding. 

2) How much have you seen the sport evolve and grow since you started snowboarding? How much has the sport changed for women?

It’s been so incredible. There’s been so much evolution in women in sports in general in the last ten or fifteen years but to have been in such a young sport like snowboarding with such different dynamics than a traditional sport, it’s been incredible to see that progression. It’s an entirely different world from when I started and to see the women coming up now who are just pushing it so hard, it’s really incredible. It keeps me so interested in my sport because there’s always something new to try or something new to progress towards. I know wherever I take the sport, it’s going to get taken so much further by the women after me. That’s a really exciting thing.

3) There are so many incredible Canadian female snowboarders and skiers competing in slopestyle and halfpipe, how does that push you as an athlete?

It’s so cool, especially in these action sports where there aren’t as many women participating yet, you really find liaisons in other sports. So I’m really close to a lot of the female skiers and I find so much inspiration in what they’re doing. They’re maybe not doing the exact same sport as me but their goals are the same. They want to progress the sport and want to take it as far as they can. It’s definitely nice being a Canadian athlete and having so many women to look up to. 

4) You went to your first Olympics in Sochi last year. You’re currently training to hopefully head back to the Olympics in South Korea in 2018. What do you want to do differently this time around?

The Sochi games were definitely trying for me, it didn’t go my way. It was such a unique experience. You do so much prep for it, trying to prepare for your first games but there’s really nothing like it. I learned so much from that experience and I feel a lot stronger for it. I’m really looking forward to just relaxing a little bit more in Korea and making it my own. I think just not looking to everyone else’s expectations as much and just doing it on my own terms. I’m really excited at a second shot at the games so hopefully I’m going to be representing Canada there. 

5) Through snowboarding, you’ve had the chance to travel the world, what are some of the most memorable places you’ve visited thus far?

Japan was incredible, I loved snowboarding in Japan. The people and the culture there are so wonderful. I’m a really big fan of Europe. The Swiss Alps are some of my favorite places to ride. But also at home in Canada, I love Whistler. I’m such a BC girl, it’s always closest to my heart. 

 

5 Questions With: Kaya Turski

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Last January, I was one of the many Canadians that was thrilled to see the introduction of half-pipe and slopestyle skiing into the Olympic Games at the Sochi Olympics in Russia. I know that many women skiiers including freestyle skiing pioneer Sarah Burke fought incredibly hard to get the sport to where it is today. Another amazing Canadian athlete who’s been paving the way for women in the sport is 26-year-old Montrealer Kaya Turski. Kaya competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and is currently the reigning Winter X Games slopestyle champion. To this day, Kaya has won 4 Winter X Games slopestyle gold medals. Kaya is currently taking some classes at her local community college and will be back to competing in the winter. She’s definitely an inspiration for women in the sport and a force to be reckoned with. I’m honored that she took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Here are my 5 Questions With Kaya Turski:

1) When did you start skiing? Do you remember when you decided that you wanted to compete and take it more seriously?

I skied when I was little, about 3 until 9 years old. Then I played around with snowboarding a little bit but my main focus after that was aggressive inline rollerblading. I competed in park until I was about 14 when I took a break from doing it professionally. When I was 16, I tried skiing for the first time in years and something clicked! I really enjoyed it and caught on pretty quick because of my background in inline skating. I decided to move out to Whistler after high school and the fall semester of college to see what I could do on skis… and then it all took off from there. Once I got into the groove I wanted to start competing, it’s something I’ve always liked. The challenge, the adrenaline, the focus it takes…. all very appealing to me.

2) What is it about freeski that appeals to you and that you love so much?

I like the freedom it gives me. On the hill, I can do (almost) whatever I want. In the air, I can try whatever I feel. And the lifestyle and travel opportunities it has given me have been amazing. 

3) Last January, slopestyle skiing made its Olympic debut at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, how much has that impacted the sport and for women more specifically?

It’s hard to say yet how it impacted the sport. I think it’s made it more known, for sure. It’s great to see our sport grow into more mainstream culture. And I think the spirit of free skiing is still there, it’s freestyle core, so all in all I think it was a good thing! 

4) You’re currently ranked number 1 in the world by the Association of Freeskiing Professionals, what are some of your most memorable moments in your career thus far?

Most memorable moments that’s a tough one. So many really cool memories. I’ll give you some of my faves… landing my first switch 7! First try, I just thought I could do it and I went for it….. very cool feeling. I think that’s when it clicked that I could potentially take my skiing to the next level. Winning my first X Games! Cliche but always a dream of mine to compete at the X Games. World champs 2013 because it was a really crutch moment…. I was struggling all week and couldn’t wrap my head around anything, and I finally pulled myself together and landed my second run. Some of the best moments are when you’re really struggling and you dig deep and somehow find something within to pull you right into the light. 

5) You have a cool web series called “State of Mind”, where you share your life adventures with your fans. What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not skiing?

I love arts, crafting. I like reading, hanging out with friends, trampolining, the beach, hiking.