In my third of ten interviews of high performance Canadian athletes who are expected to contend for a medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, it is a privilege for me to share my interview with Canadian ski cross racer Brady Leman of Calgary, Alberta. Leman won the gold medal for Canada in men’s ski cross at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen and finished in second place on the 2017 World Cup circuit this past year.
Q: At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi you narrowly missed the podium and finished fourth. What did you learn from that experience in Sochi that you will hope to bring to Pyeongchang?
A: “One of the biggest learning experiences is knowing that a race is not over until it is over. You can make the final but that doesn’t mean the job is done. You have to stay focused right to the end. In Sochi, I was so wrapped up with the result and what went on (Canadian team protested the final results because they thought the French riders had illegal pants, but lost their protest because they did not file their protest in time). I think you have to find a way to make the Olympics bigger than just the mere result or if it is a medal or not. I will try to bring that change in focus to Pyeongchang.”
Q: How did you get the nickname Wombat?
A: “In my first ski cross camp with the team, we went down to Australia. We were driving around a lot and there were lots of wombats that had been run over. My teammates thought I might have looked like one. I had woolly socks, shorter hair and a beard. If you hit it, it would make a big dent in your car. They thought if you ran me over with your car, I would be dead, but I would make a big dent with your car with me.”
Q: Why did you make the transition from traditional alpine skiing to ski cross?
A: “I lost a little bit of my passion for alpine racing in my last season. I had a tough year. It wasn’t really going the way that I wanted, even though I had some pretty good success still. In my whole racing career, I always loved hitting jumps and being in the air too. I competed a little bit in big air and slopestyle and halfpipe just kind of for fun. I was always pretty good in the park. I thought those skills would transfer really well into ski cross.”
Q: This past season you won two World Cups in Sweden and Blue Mountain. How much confidence did you come away with those wins?
A: “A ton for sure. It had been five years almost since I won a World Cup race. I had tons of podium finishes in the middle, but I hadn’t quite been able to put it down to actually win. I won stuff outside of the World Cup, like the Winter X Games. That was cool. To finally win on the World Cup was almost a sigh of relief. I felt that I do have what it takes to put it down in the finals. I was able to build on that from that first win in Blue Mountain for sure.”
Q: What did you take away from your win in Sweden?
A: “From my win in Sweden, I remember my ability to bounce back. We had a double event there. The first day did not go very well. I was able to reset really well and change the focus for the second day of the race. I learned a lot from the mistakes the first day and build on that in the second day. In the past, I have been real bad of being able to let go of poor results. I get down on myself and get really frustrated. I dwell on them (the results) a lot. I think that was just a big step of understanding that there is going to be bad races and there’s nothing too much that you could really do about it. It was a little bit of confirmation about being able to let go of the bad results, and then move on, and then have success afterwards.”
Q: Tell me about Christopher Del Bosco. Do you have much of a rivalry with him?
A: “I wouldn’t really call it a rivalry. We’ve been teammates for a long time now. He’s a very strong competitor. We push one another in training a lot, which is really good, and we push one another in competition as well. We both want to see each other have success but at the same time we are both fighting to be number one. To have a teammate like that push you is always helpful and builds a lot of competitiveness within the group. It gives you a chance to learn a lot from one another because we see things very differently. When you can have that other perspective from someone else who is at the top of their game too, it is beneficial for both of you.”
Q: In terms of your training, how is it going at this time?
A: “It is going good. I am just getting back into the gym now after some time off. It is nice to get back to work. This is an easy season to be motivated in the gym. It feels good to be back and be back training hard in the gym. My body is in great shape, which is nice. There are no kinds of recoveries of anything yet. I like to stay active in the summer by riding bikes and do all kinds of stuff. Staying healthy is important. Right now I am healthy which is nice. Training is going really well.”
Q: What are your goals during the 2017-18 ski cross season?
A: “I am just trying to keep building on what built this past season and the season before. It has been a lot of real consistent success the last two years. I am just trying to keep building on that, keep the momentum going, and build into hopefully having a good day in Korea. It’s no secret that I am very competitive and very motivated around results sometimes too. I want to win and I want to win the overall, the Crystal Globe next too. This past year was close as I finished second. Close is nice but it is not what I am out here for. The goals are high for sure. The goals are high.”