Canada's only 6-time Winter Olympian Anderson values the journey above all
2010 Olympic snowboard champion isn't in it for the medals
By Myles Dichter, CBC Sports
Jasey-Jay Anderson is Canada's first six-time Winter Olympian. But that doesn't mean much to him.
He's won an Olympic gold medal — on home soil, no less — but "if you just focus on the medal, it's empty. A medal is about 30 seconds on the podium," he says.
So what drives the 42-year-old snowboarder to keep coming back to the Olympics?
"It's the journey that makes a lifetime worth of achievement," Anderson says.
"I saw a speed skater in the 500-metre. He's been working for four years to get his Olympic chance, and he tripped right off the start. And I remember [legendary Canadian speed skater] Jeremy Wotherspoon did that, so it could happen to me. I trip and my Olympics are over. So that's why you have to look at the journey."
An 8-year search
For Anderson, that Olympic journey began in Nagano in 1998 where he competed in snowboard giant slalom and placed 16th.
Since then, he's notched one gold medal (Vancouver 2010, parallel giant slalom), one fifth-place finish (Turin 2006, snowboard cross) and a slew of other Olympic results ranging from 14th to 29th.
Following his victory in Vancouver, the Mont-Tremblant, Que., native, went into a slump. He didn't win another event until the World Cup in Bansko, Bulgaria, less than one month ago.
So what happened in the interim?
After 2010, Anderson retired and started a ski and snowboard business. He had vertebrae injuries which paralyzed part of the back left side of his body. Between that and the needs to test his boards, Anderson decided to begin rehab and return for the 2011-12 season.
"And the plan was to come back for two to three years until I figured out what made a ski and a snowboard fast, like where energy came from in a ski and a snowboard," he says.
Two to three years quickly turned into eight. In the first few years, his snowboard business began floundering financially.
The builder he hired to help with the start-up turned out to be "crooked" according to Anderson. Soon, his life savings were gone.
"If you give too many people too much trust at one point, you're gonna get burnt, and I'm one of those," says Anderson.
He viewed it as a business lesson, and he kept going. He says he worked "24/7, 365 days" for eight years.
And in January, he had a breakthrough. He had figured out the formula for what makes a snowboard fast. Shortly after, he won that World Cup.
Does he attribute that victory to the breakthrough of information?
"Solely to that. Solely," he says
So what is it that makes a snowboard fast enough for a 42-year-old to suddenly win a World Cup after an eight-year drought?
"Unfortunately I can't tell. It's many things. It's extremely proprietary. I'm not just gonna broadcast it. It took me eight years to get this information."
Maybe Anderson will feel like sharing if his Olympics experience in Pyeongchang goes as well as it did in Vancouver. He'll compete in the parallel giant slalom — just like he did in B.C. qualifications — on Wednesday at 10:27 pm ET.
But his goal isn't just to win another gold medal, though that would certainly act as confirmation of his new snowboard information. Anderson already achieved his goal for these Olympics, despite only arriving in South Korea on Saturday.
"There was a huge gain of knowledge and a huge leap forward about a month ago, so that's what I was looking for. Victory or not, I knew I had it," says Anderson.
Faster, higher, stronger
Anderson isn't the type to give up. It's why that two-to-three-year return turned into eight. He knows you can't guarantee a medal just with a board, but combine that with some hard work.
"I've failed too many times to know that complacency is your worst enemy and perseverance is your best friend," says Anderson.
Anderson once had a coach who he says viewed the job as a nine-to-five; work during the day, but shut off work at all other times. This didn't sit well with Anderson.
"My coach was saying, 'why are you so obsessive? Your chances of winning are amazing.' And I said, 'that's exactly where your perspective is different than mine, because I'm trying to guarantee it.'"
The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius. Translated from Latin, that's faster, higher, stronger.
"Faster, higher, stronger means you always have to push it until you're faster, higher, stronger. It's not doing well, or take it easy. It's Citius, Altius, Fortius. It's a challenge. It's a mission," says Anderson.
So Canada's first six-time Olympian enters Pyeongchang with a different mindset than his first five Games. He's no longer hunting results.
"Life doesn't always hand you roses and so whatever you get, you have to turn it into roses. Turn it into something palpable."