Canada’s Brydon works to make skiing mean more
It was after the Salt Lake City Games eight years ago when Emily
Brydon started questioning the meaning of it all.
What was the point of hurtling herself down the mountain at 90
mph (150 kph)? Couldn’t she be doing something more socially
conscious with her life? Was it worth dealing with all the pressure
top-ranked skiers face?
“I didn’t really love skiing then and I swore to myself I
always wanted to love the sport,” Brydon said in a recent
interview. “I felt really guilty for the lifestyle that I had and
the opportunities that I had.”
Now nearly 30, Brydon enters these games as one of only a
handful of skiers considered capable of upsetting Lindsey Vonn in
the Olympic downhill on Wednesday.
But she came very close to retiring back in 2002 – before
rearranging her priorities, getting involved more with the
charitable side of the sport, and starting her own not-for-profit
And yes, for a skier from the small town of Fernie, British
Columbia, the chance to race at the Vancouver Olympics in her home
province also helped inspire Brydon to continue.
In the past few seasons she’s become a regular podium finisher,
and posted the only World Cup victory of her career in St. Moritz,
Switzerland, two years ago.
Plus, Brydon and the rest of the Canadians have had exclusive
access to the Whistler downhill course in recent years and Vonn’s
status is in question due to a bruised right shin.
“If everything goes well for her, then she has the potential to
be in contention and going for the podium,” Canada women’s head
coach Patrick Riml said. “She’s very focused and she’s ready to
Brydon began her career as a highly promising junior skier,
winning the silver medal in slalom at the junior worlds a decade
ago and posting top-10 finishes in her other three events.
But success at the elite World Cup level didn’t come so
“I took it too seriously,” she said. “I put a lot of pressure
on myself and I never really enjoyed it because I was never
reaching my expectations.”
And then there was the socially conscious side of the highly
introspective Brydon – who often reduces herself to tears when she
doesn’t satisfy herself.
“I just felt guilty for it,” she said. “There’s so much going
on in this world and so many people that don’t have what I have and
it’s kind of silly what I do sometimes – just go down the course as
fast as I can.
“Sometimes it’s hard to swallow that and really justify
But then Brydon realized that she can be a role model and create
hope for younger skiers and athletes.
“So I changed my mentality about why I did it,” she said. “It
wasn’t about me anymore. I didn’t ski race just for me.”
Brydon started getting involved in Right to Play – a Canadian
organization that uses sports to aid the development of children
and youth in underprivileged areas of the world.
Brydon also started her own organization – the Emily Brydon
Youth Foundation – in Fernie.
“It gives children in the valley opportunities to believe and
to dream and do what they want to do, whether it’s sports or
academics or the arts. There’s no boundaries,” she said, her eyes
glowing as she described the possibilities.
“We help kids who have potential and we help kids who have
never been on snow before. It’s all-encompassing,” she said.
“I’ve been able to change kids’ lives and that’s what sports is
all about, I think.”
Brydon started this season strongly with two podium finishes on
home snow in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December, then struggled to
break back into the top 10 until she finished ninth in St. Moritz
two weeks ago in the final race before the games.
Riml attributed the brief falloff to the devastating number of
injuries the Canadians have had to deal with this season.
Fellow downhillers Kelly Vanderbeek and Larisa Yurkiw both had
season-ending injuries before Christmas, leaving Brydon and Britt
Janyk as the only threats in the speed events. The men’s team lost
downhill world champion John Kucera, Jean-Philippe Roy and Patrick
“All of a sudden we were two out of four and we were like,
‘Jeez, we don’t want to get hurt,”’ Riml explained. “That was a
little bit of our problem in January. It was a little bit just
trying to make sure that we make it to Whistler for the
Now that Brydon is here, she wants to take advantage of the
opportunity – because this time she really is going to retire.
“I try not to talk about it that much because I just want to
focus on this year and enjoying it and making the best of it,” she
said. “Instead of looking into the future I’m trying to live in
the now. But it’s been pretty clear in my mind that this is a great
way to end this chapter of my life.
“This year there has been no stone left unturned, because
there’s not going to be a next year.”