Chris Robanske leads Canada into men's snowboard cross
'The smartest person will win'
It’s a story of Olympic rookies for Canada in the men’s snowboard cross event on Tuesday. Three of four Canadians to qualify for the Games will make their Olympic debut in Sochi, a day late after Monday's scheduled event was postponed due to fog.
Chris Robanske of Calgary, Alta., is one of Canada’s top medal contenders in the event, sitting ninth in the current World Cup standings. The 24-year-old battled back from major injuries, including a compression fracture of the spine in 2011 and a broken ankle in 2012, to earn his spot in Sochi.
“Being a part of the whole Olympic movement, with all of the other athletes, is really neat,” said Robanske. “It really brings everyone together and it makes me very proud to represent Canada on the world stage like this.”
Robanske has been training on the course since Thursday and feels positive about his chances in Tuesday's race.
The course "flowed together really well,” he said. “It's one of the best courses I've ever ridden and I'm having a blast. You're going to have to be aggressive but the smartest person will win.
"Everyone comes here to bring home the gold. I'm going to do everything I can to get to the top of the podium."
Maximizing chances for Canadian podium performance
Kevin Hill, of Vernon, B.C., enters the Games sitting eighth in the overall World Cup standings. He kicked off the season with his first career podium finish when he won bronze in Montafon, Austria, in December. Hill narrowly missed qualifying to compete in the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Now, he has his sights set on bringing home his first Olympic medal.
"The course is epic,” said Hill. “I felt really fast. This course suits me. I've never felt better at a race in my life. I'm so stoked to race it's not even funny.”
Hill knows it will be a battle to the finish with the best in the world also looking for a podium performance.
It will take “four fast laps from top to bottom with confidence and staying on your feet” to win, he said.
Also competing for Canada will be 26-year-old Jake Holden of Caledon, Ont., and veteran Rob Fagan of Cranbrook, B.C., who finished fifth in his Olympic début in Vancouver.
Fagan knows how competitive racing gets at the Olympics.
“It's going to be tight riding from start to finish."
One key boarder will be missing from the competition: reigning Olympic champion Seth Wescott of the United States, who failed to qualify to compete in Sochi. Wescott broke his tibial plateau and tore the ACL in his left knee in April, ultimately ending his hope of an Olympic three-peat in snowboard cross.
"As far as Seth goes, right now the riding is so tight between everybody here,” said Robanske. “He obviously has experience, but right now it's so close, it's anyone's game out there."
International threats to the Canadian team include current world cup standings leader Omara Visintin of Italy, and Jarryd Hughes of Australia, who sits second in the standings. Stian Sivertzen of Norway and Trevor Jacob of the United States have also been solid this season.
American Nate Holland enters the Olympics after winning his seventh-career gold medal at X Games in Aspen, Colo., last month. The 35-year-old narrowly missed the podium in Vancouver finishing fourth.
"It's been a huge motivating factor,” said Holland. “When I want to walk out of the gym, all I have to do is remember that feeling at the bottom of the course when they asked me to step out of the crowd to do the podium ceremony. I enter this contest thinking that I might not have another chance.”
This story was originally written before Monday's event was postponed.