Ski jumper Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes fears for sport's future in Canada

'If Calgary jumps are not operational, we can pretty much kiss the sport goodbye,' says Alberta native

Ski jumper Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes fears for sport's future in Canada
Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes, who competed in both the individual normal and large hill events in Pyeongchang, is fearful of ski jumping's future in Canada as there are not enough people doing it and only one place to train. © Vaughn Ridley/Canadian Press

By Paul McGaughey, CBC Sports

When Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes looks on the bright side, he doesn't see himself as a lone wolf.

Technically he isn't as the Calgary ski jumper travels and trains full time with his American counterparts.

But from a sports perspective — as the only Canadian male to compete in Pyeongchang in his discipline — the 26-year-old just doesn't have much company.

"It's sad that there aren't more competitors, more athletes, from me down to all the development programs [in Canada]," says Boyd-Clowes from South Korea where he competed in his third Winter Games.

"There just aren't enough people doing it. There aren't enough venues, so obviously I'd like to see that grow."

As for what drew Boyd-Clowes to the sport at age seven, his perspective has changed over the years since making his Olympic debut in Vancouver.

"I think if you were to ask me that question in 2010, I would have thought the right answer was 'I always dreamed of flying,'" he says after taking a moment to reflect.

"But now that's not really the truth. The truth is more like I didn't choose to do this sport, I stumbled upon it by accident."

Boyd-Clowes didn't immediately fall in love with ski jumping when he was recruited by a program in Calgary, but after a few years of trying it recreationally, he began to see the bigger picture.

"I started to really get competitive with it and I think that's the reason I've continued — I wanted to go to the Olympics."

'Top 30 may not sound like much'

Boyd-Clowes reached the final round of both the individual normal hill and large hill events in Pyeongchang to continue his pattern of improving on the Olympic stage, finishing 26th and 21st, respectively.

"Getting top 30 may not sound like much or may not seem like something to celebrate, but for a ski jumper from Canada it's quite a big deal," says Boyd-Clowes of his progress.

"I think there are quite a few people in Canada — if I was to come to these events and get the same results as I did in 2010, there would have been no surprise if I hadn't gotten better. They wouldn't have been as surprised because ski jumping is such an absent sport in Canadian culture."

While Boyd-Clowes says everyone always tells him the only time they watch ski jumping is during the Olympics, the sport garners significantly more attention in Europe, where virtually all the World Cup and world championships are held.

"It's kind of a shame…every single weekend there are 30 or 40 thousand people going to ski jumping events and it's the most watched [snow] sport on European television, so it's a completely different world."

Uphill battle in Canada

In stark contrast, Boyd-Clowes fears for the survival of his discipline in Canada, where the only training facility is in Calgary.

"It's pretty crucial that we keep those facilities open to foster youth development in our sport," he says. If those Calgary jumps are not operational then we can pretty much kiss the sport goodbye."

With the World Cup season set to resume in March in Lahti, Finland, Boyd-Clowes will leave Pyeongchang happy with how he represented his sport and his country, although he acknowledges the strangeness in celebrating top-30 finishes.

"It does feel a little bit weird when I'm amongst so many other athletes in the village who are fighting for medals and stuff like that.

"To be pleased with myself with the 21st place seems a little odd, but knowing how small the sport is in our country, it's kind of a different game and I'm pretty satisfied."