Canada's Erik Read learning from dad Ken that Olympics aren't 'just another event'

Alpine skier using advice from 2-time Olympian father to help him prepare

Canada's Erik Read learning from dad Ken that Olympics aren't 'just another event'
Canada's Erik Read will race the Olympic men's giant slalom Sunday and slalom Thursday. © Alessandro Trovati/Canadian Press/Associated Press

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Erik Read's dad told him to have a strategy for the Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The alpine ski racer takes fatherly advice seriously. Ken Read knows the Winter Games inside and out as a participant in 1976 and 1980, and as the Canadian team's chef de mission in 1992 in Barcelona.

"Because he has that experience with the Games on so many different sides, he always kind of comes up to me and says 'You need to have a plan for that race. People try to tell you it's just another ski race, it's just another event, but it is different. You have to have a plan for your friends, the media,"' Erik said.

"You go to the Games just kind of expecting to go through your World Cup routine and that's not possible because there all these other, as he calls them, distractions for an athlete.

"He's doing his best to prepare me for the Games. He understands what's going on there, whereas I've heard about it, but I don't really know."

All in the family

The oldest son of Ken and former women's national team skier Lynda Read will race the Olympic men's giant slalom Sunday and slalom Thursday.

Erik, 26, is flying more under the radar into Pyeongchang than his father did in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980.

Ranked among the world's top downhillers, Ken Read was Canada's flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies. His ski binding failed 15 seconds into the downhill and he didn't finish.

Ken Read declined to be interviewed for this story, saying he wants the attention to be on his three ski-racing sons and not him.

Kevyn Read, 24, is an NCAA skier at Dartmouth and Jeffrey, 20, is a member of the Canadian development team.

A slalom and giant slalom racer, Erik would face more comparisons to his father if he was a downhiller.

As a member of the famed "Crazy Canucks" in the 1970s and 1980s, Ken was the first non-European to win a World Cup men's downhill in 1975.

Balancing act

Erik posted a trio of top-10 World Cup results in 2016-17 despite a hectic schedule that included business studies at the University of Denver and competing in NCAA races for the Pioneers.

He commuted between Europe and North America and can recall giving a presentation with fellow students he had just met that day.

"It was pretty crazy a few times there," Erik admitted. "I was finishing World Cup races and had assignments due that night."

World Cup results garner big sponsorships and prize money in ski racing.

As his world ranking climbed into the top 30 in slalom and GS, it would have been easier for Erik to set post-secondary education aside.

"Education has always been a high priority in my family," Erik explained. "Most people don't know that my dad went to school every single year but one while he was ski racing and then finished off a degree at Western University.

"It was something I wanted to see through. I had the added incentive because I was on an athletic scholarship. That was quite a lot of money I was saving my family."

Concentrating on Pyeongchang

His college racing career complete and with five classes to go for his degree, Erik took a hiatus from school this winter to concentrate on racing and peaking for Pyeongchang.

"When you have school and skiing, you have these two things in your face at all times," he said. "You might not get in that stretching session.

"Hopefully I can close those gaps that much better just through that attention to detail just because I have more time."

With downhill and super-G counterparts Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Dustin Cook owners of world championship and World Cup medals, the attention was mostly on them heading into Pyeongchang.

Standing outside the spotlight is not a bad place to be at the Winter Olympics, where past results don't matter and the best performance that day gains the gold.

"Especially last year, I got the belief that I can compete with all those guys in the world," Erik said. "To have so many runs where I was losing almost no time to them, and if I'm able to build on that this year, why not?

"Being able to fly under the radar, then that's just less pressure and definitely can be advantageous."