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North Van snowboarder Chris Robanske returns home after competing in Sochi
Since returning from the Sochi Games, snowboarder Chris Robanske has been enjoying some North Shore-style R&R. Just check out his Instagram account: mountain biking on the local trails with his pro rider girlfriend Micayla Gatto; kicking back on Adirondack chairs in Deep Cove soaking in the scenery; working up a sweat at Level 10 Fitness; and enjoying lunch with friends at Sushi Bella.
“I’ve had a really good time being home,” says the 24-year-old Albertan who moved to North Van two years ago to train for snowboarding.
Of course, even though he’s back on home turf, memories of the 2014 Winter Games are still as fresh as the snow he was shredding earlier today on Mount Baker with another national team rider.
Reflecting on suiting up for Team Canada at the Games, Robanske sums up the Sochi experience this way: “unnn-real.”
“It was awesome. I know we all had a blast. Obviously the race didn’t go as well as I would have liked but we made sure to really have some fun and enjoy all the other sports and other venues as well.”
In the quarterfinals of the snowboard cross event, Robanske, considered a medal favourite, led the race at times before a crash ended his Olympic dream.
“I was pretty upset at the time. But then I realized I need to leave it behind at the hill. You can sit there and dwell on it but it doesn’t do you any good.”
Instead, he donned his Maple Leaf gear and attended the women’s bobsled finals and then sat rinkside for the Canada-U.S. men’s hockey quarterfinal tilt. “It was amazing. They definitely don’t go as crazy as us at hockey games. But the cool thing was all the Russians are cheering for Canada,” he says.
And while some journalists tweeted derisively about their Sochi accommodations, Robanske says he felt right at home at the Games, especially at the Team Canada housing complex at the Mountain Olympic Village.
“They did such a phenomenal job making it feel like home,” says Robanske.
That included everything from familiar toothpaste and Canadian snacks and coffee to beanbag chairs for comfortably lounging. “I would say it [took] less acclimatization than any of the other events I’ve been to,” says Robanske who regularly competes across Europe and North America on the World Cup snowboard circuit.
Of course, last year during a test race at Sochi, Robanske got a more authentic taste of Russia.
“I’d say last year when I went to the test event it was more of a shock. Seeing it a year before, staying at your everyday hotel, that was kind of like ‘Oh, this is definitely Russia.’”
Robanske, who returned home with some Sochi souvenirs and authentic Russian nesting dolls, gives the host country high praise for the job it did putting on the Games.
“Russia itself is a much different place than Canada but we knew they were going to put on a great show. Obviously, what seems to be an unlimited amount of money went into it. It was an incredible show. They did a phenomenal job….”
And while star athlete sightings are common at the Games, one particular encounter left Robanske in awe. On the morning of the snowcross event Robanske was warming up when Switzerland’s Didier Cuche — “one of the best all-time skiers in the world,” he explains excitedly — skied into the tent to say hello to one of the wax technicians who was a countryman. “He skis right up and gives me a big high five and tells me to go for it and stuff. That was pretty cool. You expect to see other athletes but I did not expect to have that happen,” he recalls.
One of the other indelible Sochi moments was “just being part of the Canadian team as whole,” he says. “I got to meet a lot of the athletes — and I had met [a lot of] them before — but going into the closing ceremonies as a full team, and the people, the fans are cheering for Canada, it’s pretty cool. Really, really, cool.”