Tag Archives: nagano

Rebagliati Positive About 2010 in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine”

Ross article - Heads magazine coverMy article “Rebagliati Positive About 2010” was published in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine” Vol. 6 Issue 10 “The Stoned Cold Issue.”

Like “Zen Rambling in Japan” the Ross article is the “Head First” lead article and over 3000 words and I also managed one photo in there (the one with the big nug). A great layout and Kris Krug‘s fine shots of a candid Ross frame the article nicley indeed.

The article discusses 1998 Nagano Olympic snowboard gold medalist and Canadian sporting legend, Ross Rebagliati’s quest for 2010 Olympics in Whistler/Vancouver plus his training routine, fundraising efforts, quest to make the team role on tour and recreational interests.

Importantly, he breaks down the events and emotions of the big shakedown in Nagano. Hear more about the fallout from his positive marijuana test from an interview I did in Vancouver during the 2006 Turin games.

Ross article, Heads magazineRoss article, Heads magazine, pg. 2
See full size images on Flickr in the Magazines of Note set

Choose between this (not really updated) Heads magazine or this Heads magazine on myspace but better off just scorcing a copy for yourself.

UPDATE: 2015, Heads magazine sadly folded a few years back. Ross is now a father and marijuana entrepreneur.

See also: Ross’ site, Ross on Flickr

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Rebagliati Positive About 2010

by Dave Thorvald Olson

Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati is training for 2010 Olympics on his home course, defending his reputation and spreading his wisdom to the youth

Ross Rebagliati rolled into the early morning Vancouver coffeeshop looking composed and chillaxed, deftly juggling cellphone radio interviews and answering questions via a live symposium connected to the 2006 Games in Turin. While others yawned, he grinned for snapshots and scribbled Sharpie autographs before heading back up the twisty road to Whistler for an afternoon of training.

Somehow, the thirty-something Ross manages to escape any stereotyping – balancing an elite athlete’s intensity with the laid back ease of a sagey mountain monk. No stoner drawl or disheveled appearance here, Ross is all dialed in – looking simultaneously chiseled and cherubic. Part James Bond and part Jeff Spicoli with ruddy cheeks which must get him carded 8 times out of 10 buying beer in the States. His healthy lifestyle is evident and he’s got something 007 and Spicoli dude don’t – a Gold Medal. Says so right on his business card, “Olympic Gold Medalist.”

Though his 1998 gold medal performance still draws occasional cliched punch-lines, these days Ross is a busy guy who stays rolling with good food and exercise from kick boxing to kite sailing to keep him relaxed, focused and healthy while facing a constant schedule.

Eight years after his big win, he’s become part of Canadian culture as more than, “that guy who won the gold and got busted for weed.” And it’s not just stoners toasting him when toking Nagano Gold buds or boarders admiring his success of winning the controversial inaugural event – his candor and perseverance qualified him for folk hero status to many civil libertarians.

Albeit unintentionally, Ross is a role model or an accidental martyr and is irrevocably synonymous with the positive weed test after winning the snowboard gold. But more importantly, he is known for the way he handled the incident, notably, his persistence in fighting to keep his hard-earned medal while sticking to his ideals, staying loyal to his friends, speaking out and showing that cannabis use can be a normal part of a healthy lifestyle.

Not content to rest on past accomplishments, Ross plans a return to the podium and is eyeing a place on Team Canada to compete on his home course, before his hometown friends at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler.

Recreation Renaissance Man

Ross’ public schedule is a stream of autograph signings, car dealership appearances, media interviews and spots on every cheesy radio and TV morning show in the nation sandwiched in between grueling training sessions, playing with his beloved dog and hanging out with, you know, his peer group, the ones with gold medals. Kicking back with Donavon Bailey or strolling into the NHL awards ceremony with Captain Cassie Campbell – just like its no big deal.

He’s dabbled in broadcast work like many victorious athletes and toyed with a bit of TV acting but mixes in adventure sports action with his training retinue – racing stock cars, riding dirt bikes, kite-sailing, surfing, mountain biking the technical trails and whatever else you got, … including golf.

These days, he’s set on 2010 but also keeps new adventures in mind, “Right now from here to then, 2010 is obviously my main focus, after that i’d love to race in the Paris Dakar rally race on a motor bike – that’s one of my main goals for my life.”

As for politics, the contemplative and well-spoken Ross says, “That has crossed my mind as well but I don’t think it would give me enough free time.”

Currently taking up valuable time is a “misappropriation of personality” lawsuit he filed against the producers of a gaudy TV program featuring a blond-haired, blue-eyed, goldmedal-winning snowboarder whose murder leads to uncovering a hedonistic and unsavory past. Ross says, “I’m the only former gold medal snowboarder in Whistler so yeah I think it is confusing and detrimental to my image and hurts my ability to secure sponsorships.” However, the producers say that Ross’s name never came up in the meetings and the character is purely coincidental (yeah right).

Either way, the locals know the truth that Ross is the real deal in Whistler where visitors can ski Ross’ run on Blackcomb and finish the day by sparking a doob in the Village park named in his honor.

The Message

Ross approaches the weed topic with a “been there” sigh, but he’s reluctantly aware that he’s become an unintentional role-model for the millions of weekend athletes and herbal enthusiasts who seek to balance turning on with working out. Indeed, whenever Ross’ name appears in the media, “marijuana” isn’t far behind and he is still vilified by crusty conservatives who pull out the “what kind of message does this send to the kids” rhetoric.

Turns out, contrary to the misleading rumblings, Ross sends a great message to the kids, particularly aspiring Olympians, saying, “If you have a goal to become an Olympic athlete and if you devote your life, it is definitely a obtainable thing, it is just about making the time and committing to it.”

He also sends a positive message to the community with his considerable charity work, hanging out with kids across North America and genuinely enjoying the good work. Besides actively participating in sports programs for kids with disabilities, diabetes awareness with his mom, and visiting terminally ill youth, he also does a kids day at at EA Sports where he is patiently worked over by wheelchair-bound kids playing video games. He explains, almost excitedly, “Due to their various conditions, gaming is an integral part of their lives and let me tell you, they are pros at it!”

His epic performance also sent a very powerful message to the nay-sayers like the ignorant politicos who won’t admit that responsible marijuana use in not anti-social behavior and pompous blowhard crusaders like International Olympic Committee’s dope chief, Dick Pound who struggles to differentiate between harmful, synthesized substances or damaging steroids, and non-toxic THC (which is only maybe a performance enhancing substance) and clings to the tired and unproven gateway drug rhetoric.

However, his open opinions supporting cannabis and refusal to “sell out” his toker friends raised the ire of do-gooders who sought to leverage him into an anti-herb crusader to atone for his error.

No such luck for the draconians as Ross chimes in on decriminalization, “Right now the whole idea of it being decriminalized makes the legal system function at a level that it should be functioning at and not clogging up the courts and the judicial system and even jails or whatever for something like that.”
{ref: Olympian Rebagliati urges pot decriminalization, Canadian Press, Updated: Thurs. May. 8 2003 6:18 AM ET)}

His out-spoken nature has caused problems crossing borders into USA, Europe and Australia and he still faces annoying travel restrictions when heading into the USA and required minor diplomatic intervention to facilitate his trip to watch the Games in Salt Lake City 2002.

While the excess attention caused problems crossing borders, the resultant hassle was the impetus to take a break from competitive snowboarding allowing him precious time to purse his other various interests, but now, he is back on his race board and ready to win again.

2010 – What’s it gonna take

Competing in the Olympics is a Big Deal for anyone, but a bigger deal for 38 year old (well, unless you’re 39 year old 2006 Skeleton Gold Medalist, Duff Gibson but that’s another story). Sure, sometimes you see a grey haired curler but the snowboarding circuit is dominated by spry twenty-somethings who combine the rare mix of health, motivation, skill with ability to cobble enough income to support themselves to train, travel and compete in a challenging discipline where milliseconds count and injuries are easily come by.

But first, Ross has got to make the team. There are no automatic slots on Canada’s Olympic Snowboard team – even for a gold medalist & BC Sports Hall of Famer. Instead, the egalitarian system rewards boarders for long-term amateur participation for Team Canada. Candidates must compete in prescribed events and participate in group training sessions to rise through the ranks to qualify. Which means you have to be fast and race a lot where and when they tell ya.

So what is it gonna take for Ross to make the team against guys 15 years his junior?

As part of preparing himself physically, he drink most of his meals – mixing protein powder, raw egg, blueberries, flax seed, grape nuts, banana and yogurt in a blender for breakfast and lunch and eating chicken with broccoli for dinner. That’s part of the difference between an elite snowboarder and the dude down the street who pounds a few twinkies before hitting the lifts.

Ross continues, “I’m riding every day, back on my race board running gates at Blackcomb, most days you can see me training on Jersey Cream at the Race Centre. Plus I do an extensive kick boxing routine and have a basement gym with weights and punching bags.”

Just in case he isn’t working hard enough, he worked with Sasha, a Russian conditioning coach who defected from the Army 20 years ago who Ross describes as “pretty hardcore.”

For snowboard-specific training, he hooked up with a former competitor Thedo Remilink who finished 10th in Nagano, boarding for Holland at age 35. Ross says, “Thedo and I were on the same pro team around 1996. He will be a familiar face for me as well as someone who knows my history.”

After a summer on the mountain bike and early training on Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor, he’s ready for competition in Europe this fall.

The Path Back Home

Specialized, international training isn’t cheap and must be funded by company sponsors or privately as Canada doesn’t kick down the expenses to the level of some countries where elite athletes are feted and coddled like sacred cows. Instead, Canada spreads sports funding across a wide swath of athletes rather than fully funding a few top performers,

This policy can lead to situations evidenced in Turin 2006 when independently wealthy freestyle mogul skier Dale Begg-Smith, who hails from Vancouver and train in Whistler, competed for Australia because he didn’t care to participate in the required group training procedures and risk missing out on the Games by these missing required events. Instead, he paid his way, waited his time and brought the Aussies a rare Winter Gold.

With snowboarding, the Canadian Olympic powers doesn’t fund anyone who doesn’t train with the team which causes a conundrum for someone like Ross who expects to make the team yet wishes to train with his preferred coach. No worry though, Ross insists he will compete only for Canada and is headed back to take his lumps as the cagey veteran racing against up and comers on the World Cup circuit where (back in the day) he won the European Championship plus his hometown World Cup event and was a regular in the top three.

Besides the coaching expense, until he makes Team Canada, he’s on his own to fund the $1000/week needed for the basic travel expenses for life on the circuit from plane tickets to entry fees to lift tickets for training, etc. Like a rock band scraping gas money for the tour van, he sells t-shirts, toques and other Ross paraphernalia on his website but of course, his accomplishments and high profile draw sponsor’s attention, notably iconoclastic Canadian brand, Roots. “They’ve been there for me every step,” Ross says, adding,”I lost some sponsors after the Olympics, but Roots picked up the slack.” Looks like the exposure works for Roots too who now make Olympic uniforms for several countries. Besides Roots, he shills body space for ads for googles and gear enough to keep rolling to the next race.

But don’t worry too much about the enterprising Rebagliati – after losing a pre-Olympic sponsor who was covering his mortgage payments, Ross sold his house and realized a considerable profit. He says, “A light bulb went off in my head and I realized I could continue to flip houses.” So he pulls enough flips in the hectic Whistler real estate market to keep the homefires burning and suggests, “The midnight infomercial about buying houses with no money down is true.”

Know Your Role

On his return to the circuit, he is savvy to the trials of the road in the hyper-competitive environment and the effects of the inter-personal dynamics on race results.

“Aside from the underlying stress of the financial commitments with no guarantees, there is considerable time on the road and the particular dynamic of the inner team relationships. These are the factors which, if dealt with wisely or not, contribute to either success or failure. The ‘reality TV shows’ like Big Brother and Survivor are very good examples of what life on the racing circuit is like.”

As a first to have a rare boarder pass at Blackcomb, Ross, who started as ski racer, met snowboarding at 15 and never looked back and as someone who loves the sport, and as the “not-quite grizzled” veteran teammate, he’s prepared to help other boarders cope and succeed by bringing a cooperative attitude into a competitive environment.

“I will be the veteran with all the experience. When I first started with professional teams 15 years ago, me and the others were in our early 20’s, and sometimes younger, with very limited life experience away from the comforts of home. Dealing with things about growing up along with race life on the road is a challenge for anyone, especially at that age.”

After a five year competitive hiatus, he’s gotta be realistic with his expectations though, he expects, “to make top three in at least one race and he in the finals (top 15) or better on a regular basis by mid-season. My goals will become more or less aggressive depending on where my level of riding is ay compared to the current top guns.”

His quest to be a competitor in 2010 was inspired by his involvement with bringing the games to his hometown as an unofficial ambassador for his hometown. “During the Plebasite, I did a bunch of media to get people out to vote ‘yes’ and having the Games come here has created the motivation I now have to get back on my race boards.”

The historical significance is not lost on Ross who says, “To race in the games here would be a cool thing since when I first started snowboarding here we weren’t even allowed to ride the chairlifts anywere in Canada. It’s kind of a full circle which I am proud to have been have been a part of since the beginning.”

Don’t underestimate the advantage of competing on a familiar course (let alone sleeping at home with race-day breakfast at your favorite cafe) and with his steely-eyed focus, love of boarding, healthy lifestyle and balanced demeanor, don’t bet against Rebagliati being back on top of the podium in 2010. After a few seasons back on the board, the still-distant February morning might just feel like another screaming day on the slopes for the cagey veteran.

Backstory (sidebar?)

As one of the later boarders to ride the chopped up and foggy Shiga Kogen Giant Slalom course which had claimed over a dozen DNFs on the day – Ross hurdled down the slope, pushing each turn tighter and harder and arrived at the bottom in sizzling time – moving from eighth to first and winning the Gold Medal with two hundredths of a second to spare.

From the victory celebration, the elated Ross headed back to the athlete’s village to hang out with his buddies and co-competitors. They passed his Gold Medal around and talked about the race with friendly camaraderie when the coaches walked into the room and asked everyone to leave, everyone … except for Ross who they advised to sit down.

Ross says, “They basically told me I had failed drug test but they didn’t know what for.” So he gathered the various supplements and sports drinks he’d ingested for analyzation and headed to Nagano city by bus with his backpack. When I got to Nagano, they set me up with the Head of the Canadian Olympic Association, and she explained that i had failed a test for weed.”

After 11 years training for this win, he stopped smoking in the previous April knowing testing was part game. “This was something that was part of my life for years on end leading up to that moment. We knew that it would be somewhat of an issue going into the games, and we’d gone to great lengths to educate ourselves and learn about it and to make sure it wasn’t an issue and all of a sudden, here it was right at the most crucial point of my career so it was bad news for sure. They wanted to know if I had an explanation of course I didn’t except that I’d been hanging out with people over Christmas and New Year’s and at a wake that I’d been at for a friend that I’d dedicated my winning run to.”

Suddenly statistics appeared about how much smoke would have to be in a room for the THC level to reach that point and instantly everyone was an expert on whether or not cannabis was a performance enhancing drug.

Rumors began to spread that the issue was moot as marijuana wasn’t even included as a banned substance in the agreement which added snowboarding to the Games as the International Ski Federation allows for 15ml contrary to IOC regulations permitted which permit none. Regardless, a duplicate Gold was awarded in a hastily planned ceremony trying to defray attention from the controversy.

The following morning, the ordeal continued as Ross was taken into custody by the Nagano Prefectural police who took their turn to grandstand. The local cops had managed to separate him from his RCMP escorts and Canadian Olympic Association Representatives and worked over his frazzled nerves. Ross adds, “They put me in a jail cell and interrogated me for 4-5 hours about the different things about weed. I was really starting to feel the reality of the situation because the translator could barely speak English and I didn’t even know if she was telling the chief what I was telling her.”

During that anxious, isolated time in the dark hours in jail cell, worn-out but strident, with the disputed gold medal still stuck protectively sequestered in his pocket, “They came in and told me that I’d in fact won my appeal and I could keep my medal. ” And not a moment to soon, as Ross continues, “Otherwise the Japanese police wouldn’t have let me out, they were actually pressing charges.” Tense times in a country with a 7 years jail term the norm for possession.

With the 3-2 decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport didn’t see the issue as sharply as Ross who states emphatically, “Weed was not on the list of banned substances at the time and in my opinion the fact that they tested for it anyway was a violation of social privacy.” But with the announcement, the IOC shuffled the medals once more, with Ross back on top.

Despite the relief, Ross says, “This all started less than 24 hours after the race. I only had those hours of pure exhilaration to enjoy winning the Olympics and then it all went downhill and it’s never felt the same.”

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Ross’ website: www.rossrebagliati.com/
Roots website: www.roots.com/new_canada/html/ath_update_RossM05.shtml

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Bonus

Aside from the underlying stress of the financial commitments with no guarantees there is considerable time on the road and the particular dynamic of the inner team relationships. These are the factors which, if dealt with wisely or not, contribute to either success or failure. A high level of training and racing become effortless and when the social side of things is kept in check. We are constantly in a competitive atmosphere within the team during training. Whether on snow or in the gym, do to the fact that at the end of the day we all compete against each other, the atmosphere always has this element. There will always be those who deal with this better than others and it is the responsibility of each team member to do their best to either help or distance them selves to make the most of any situation. I have made my share of mistakes and positive contributions to my team over the years and from those experiences I have come to learn how I can best contribute to not only my own success but also that of my team. I will be the veteran with all the experience but when I first started with professional teams 15yrs ago I and others were in our early 20’s and sometimes younger with very limited life experience away from the comforts of home. Dealing with things about growing up along with race life on the road is a challenge for anyone, especially at that age . The ‘reality shows’ that are on TV like Big Brother and Survivor are very good examples of what life on the racing circuit is like.

My expectations for this season are to make the top three in at least one race and to be in the finals (top 15) or better on a regular basis by mid season. As this is my first full year of racing in around five seasons my goals will become more or less aggressive depending on where my level of ridding is at compared to the current top guns. The most important thing about setting goals is to set lots of small ones that can be easily accomplished that eventually lead up to ones that are not so easy.

I am involved in what seems to be countless charities of which most of them are for kids. I am involved with the special olympics, the adaptive ski and snowboard programs for kids with disabilities, ‘make a wish’ and ‘hole in the wall’ for kids with terminal illness’. The Canadian diabetes association and myself of partnering up to raise money along with my mother who has diabetes. EA Sports and I also do kids days at their headquarters which involves me gaming against some of the best in the business,(kids in wheel chairs). Due to their various conditions, gaming is an intrigal part of their lives and let me tell you,” they are pros at it!”.

As far as the weed is concerned and the ‘rumor’ I honestly don’t know and further more would’nt want to speculate one way or the other. What I do know is that weed was not on the list of banned substances at the time and in my opinion the fact that they tested for it anyway was a violation of social privacy. All snowboarders at the Nagano Olympics followed the rules.

Aside from certain travel restrictions which are still upon me with regards to the USA I have had only a small corporate fall out with at least one of my main sponsors I had going into Nagano. I would like to point out that I don’t blame the sponsors at all for there decision although it was disappointing none the less. ‘Roots’ has been there for me every step of the way and are design leaders in healthy living and lifestyle and their clothing line reflects that.