Olympic snowboarder Spencer O’Brien stopped by Mount Cain shortly before heading off to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Linda Sjoberg, who is a volunteer at Mount Cain said her son had made O’Brien a banner wishing her good luck and wanted to mail it to her family.
When they reached out to O’Brien’s family, her dad told Sjoberg that she would actually be at Mount Cain the next weekend. “It was great how it worked out!” said Sjoberg.
“We did a little thing in the lodge, it was full of people that day, and we bragged her up – that she’s an Olympian and she’s here at Mount Cain,” said Sjoberg, adding “She said how thankful she was for everyone’s support and that she loves Mount Cain and it’s where she learned to ski.”
O’Brien, who was born in Alert Bay and grew up in Courtenay, is a six-time X Games medalist and will be representing Team Canada during the Olympic games which begin Feb. 9.
“She was just taking it easy before she was leaving for Korea on the Wednesday,” said Damaris Sadler, who frequents Mount Cain and spotted O’Brien on the mountain during that Jan. 20 weekend.
“She stood in front of everyone and they presented her with a Mount Cain t-shirt,” said Sadler, adding “She gave a talk saying she was excited to be home, and she was really excited to be going to the Olympics and everyone gave her a big cheer and a big Olympic send-off.”
The next day O’Brien took a picture with the kids from the Wolf Pack, which is Mount Cain’s ski school that runs every Sunday from 9:30 am until noon.
“It was encouraging for young people to see you can start anywhere – just look where she’s gone,” said Sjoberg, adding ” It was her downtime and she was nice enough to take the time to speak with the kids. She is just really humble and lovely.”
O’Brien, who is Kwakwaka’wakw, is one of the few Olympians that come from an Indigenous background.
She is also a Nike N7 Ambassador, which is a campaign committed to creating positive experiences in sport and physical activity for Aboriginal youth in North America.
“It was really cool to meet her because she is such a neat person,” said Sadler, adding “Lots of people just went over and talked to her and told her to bring home the gold – no pressure!”
O’Brien’s first Olympic Games were in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, where she was considered a top medal contender.
During those games, Alert Bay proudly cheered her on, where more than 200 residents gathered for a pep rally in front of the Big House before her competition.
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A few weeks prior, in November 2013, O’Brien was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and was unable to snowboard for seven months.
At the time she chose to keep the diagnosis to herself but continued to advance towards the Olympic final where she placed 12th for Slopestyle.
“Once I was healthy again, looking back, it was kind of mind-blowing,” O’Brien told The Canadian Press. “I was so grateful to be healthy again and be snowboarding.”
She was able to control the disease with medication and moved forward to win gold at the 2016 X games in Aspen.
In Pyeongchang, O’Brien will be competing again in Ladies Slopestyle, but will also be taking a shot at the Big Air event, which is making its Olympic debut.
O’Brien’s first qualification run for Ladies’ Slopestyle will be on Feb. 11 with the final taking place on Feb. 12. Her first Big Air qualification heat takes place on Feb.19 and the final is on Feb. 23.
For the full Olympic snowoard schedule click here.