Tuesday, February 10, 1998
Chairman of the board
The first-ever winner of an Olympic gold medal in snowboarding, the 26-year-old Whistler resident is literally riding on air at Nagano right now.
It's a long way from where the alpine boarder was a couple of months ago.
Rebagliati wasn't ready to pack it in, understand, but he was a tad disillusioned with his sport and its lack of funding.
I remember asking him last November how long he wanted to continue to ride on the world stage.
"As long as I'm having fun and I'm successful," he replied at the time. "But if I find myself selling my car to keep doing this ... I don't know if that's a good idea.
"In my opinion, anytime you devote your life to something for 10 years, you expect something back."
Consider this -- golden fame across Canada and the rest of the boarding world -- his payment in full. Hopefully he'll be able to ride it all the way to the bank.
It's people like Rebagliati -- young, articulate, and devoted to his sport -- who make the Olympics so special. Toiling in relative obscurity for years, he's now a Canadian icon and you can bet your boots 'n' board he'll wear his new fame with the same class he's shown so far.
For those who don't really know much about boarding, especially the alpine or speed side of the sport, there are four main disciplines -- GS, Super G, Slalom and Parallel.
Rebagliati competes in all four and, although he won gold on the Olympic GS course, Super G is the fastest. He's been clocked at 120 km/h, which is in the neighborhood of the speeds reached by the more-established downhill alpine skiing fraternity.
Snowboarding also has something fairly new called boarder-cross, which is best described as a frozen cousin of motocross.
Rebagliati, at least until now, has stayed away from boarder-cross because of a lack of consistent courses.
"There's been a couple of good courses -- for instance the X-Games last year that ESPN did. That's the boarder-cross I'd like to see -- six guys launching off a triple jump, soaring 50 or 60 feet, and all landing at the same time in perfect control.
"Right now what they do is bottleneck everybody where only one guy can get out alive. It's fun to watch, but injuries are high and there's just too much chance involved. I'd rather have the best rider get down to the finish first."
Just like at the Olympics.
RADICAL DUDES ON THE TUBE: Nobody asked, but if they handed out gold medals for the top TV commercial at the Olympics, the front runner right now is that Kokanee snowboarding spot. You know the one, the very clever takeoff on the Japanese sci-fi movie, the monster devouring the boarder, then spitting him out. "Let the Games begin."