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🏆Postpone culture

March 19, 2020
Postpone culture

The GIST: Can you believe it’s been only one week since all sports were canceled? Longest. Week. Ever.

Wait. Is everything actually canceled?: Okay, not canceled canceled, but super postponed. The NBA season is suspended until at least late April (though we have no way of knowing how realistic that even is) and the NHL is suspended indefinitely. The start of the MLB season, which was set for next Thursday, has been put off until at least mid-May.

What about other sports?: The ATP and WTA tennis seasons have been put on hold until June 7th, with the French Open Grand Slam moving from May to a tentative September 20th start. This summer’s UEFA Euro Cup, a BFD European soccer tournament held every four years, has been pushed to 2021 (no word on how that will affect subsequent tournaments), and the Kentucky Derby, the largest horse racing event in North America, is now set for September 5th.

How is this affecting the leagues and teams?: Financially, it’s a bit of a mess. The MLB could stand to lose the most because their March to October season is weather dependent. Meanwhile, the NBA is looking to extend its credit line (aren’t we all?) by $550 million to $1.2 billion (must be nice) to cover any potential expenses incurred over the next few weeks or months.

  • And if the NBA is forced to cancel the season outright, Disney (the parent company of ESPN, which owns NBA broadcast rights) is projected to lose around $481 million in ad revenue. Ouch.

And have any other players been infected?: Unfortunately, yes. On Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets reported that four of their players have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the NBA’s total cases to seven. Nets star and two-time NBA champ Kevin Durant confirmed that he was one of the four and is quarantining at home.

  • And late Tuesday night, the Ottawa Senators revealed that one of their players has tested positive as well, marking the NHL’s first COVID-19 patient. They haven’t said who, but all NHL players had been asked to self-isolate before this case anyway.

How are the athletes staying healthy?: Tennis legend Serena Williams has gone full lockdown. She posted a video to say she’s going into a self-imposed six week quarantine to protect herself and her family, and, lucky for us, will keep us updated via Instagram.

And how are they helping?: Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and his wife, Ciara, are following the Currys’ lead and donating one million meals to the Seattle community, and Swedish soccer superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović (pronounced EEB-RAH-HEEM-OH-VITCH), who plays for AC Milan, has started a fundraiser to help Italian hospitals cope during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Since the start to the Formula 1 season was canceled, the car engineers from four F1 teams have agreed to use their newfound free time to help the UK government build much needed ventilators and other medical equipment. Um, cool!

🏈Shipping out of Boston

March 19, 2020
Shipping out of Boston

The GIST: No one is enjoying themselves less than New England Patriots fans right now. Self-isolation, no St. Paddy’s parties, plus the loss of quarterback (QB) Tom Brady...it’s not a good time for Pats Nation.

Quick, give me stats on Tom: Brady was a Patriot for 20 years (aka his entire football career), where he won six Super Bowls (the most of any player in NFL history). Although his contract expired at the end of the 2019–20 season, there was still a small chance that he would re-sign for one more year.

  • Until Tuesday, when, in a single Instagram post, the Uggs guy broke the hearts of millions, saying that his “football journey will take place elsewhere.” The end of an era.

So where’s he going now?: It’s not yet official, but he’s finalizing a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a rumored $30M per year. Yeah, we were kind of confused by that, too. Seems a bit random, since the Bucs haven’t been playoff contenders since 2007, have the worst winning percentage in NFL history and Brady, at 42, likely has only a few years in him to win one last Super Bowl.

  • But the Bucs have a pretty solid offensive team with wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and head coach Bruce Arians has a longstanding reputation as a great QB coach. Tampa is also hosting the Super Bowl next season, so it could mean home field advantage for another ring...or it could mean bad luck, as a Super Bowl host has never even made it to the Super Bowl.

This is a pretty big deal: It’s a v. big deal. The struggling Patriots drafted Brady 199th in the sixth round of the 2000 Draft. And yet, somehow, this underdog became the greatest QB of all time and, with some help from head coach Bill Belichick, created a dynasty. All the best, Tommy — remember to lather up with SPF 60.

Any other NFL news?: A few other QB signings this week. Philip Rivers joined the Indianapolis Colts for a one-year, $25 million contract (wow!), Drew Brees signed a two-year extension with the New Orleans Saints, and the Jacksonville Jaguars traded 2018 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears for basically nothing a fourth-round draft pick.

Stephanie Labbé

March 17, 2020
Stephanie Labbé

Stephanie Labbé is the goalkeeper for Canada’s national women’s soccer team, a 2019 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) champion, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, and an all-around incredibly driven and talented human. While Stephanie’s sights are set on bringing Canada home a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she’s also keeping busy as a co-creator of Project Athlete along with her partner (another friend of The GIST) Georgia Simmerling. Let’s get to our interview with Stephanie:

Lexie, at The GIST (TG): Okay, you’re a goalkeeper! You could not pay us enough money to have shots fired at our heads. How did you get into that position?

Stephanie Labbé (SL): Growing up, I played lots of sports. My older brother played hockey, so I was always tagging along. I played hockey in the winter and soccer in the summer. But hockey is very time consuming. Then, by the time I was 12 years old, I was the only girl on my team, and had to start changing in my own locker room, so that was isolating.

Around the same time my friends from school said I should play indoor soccer. I couldn’t do both hockey and soccer though. But I totally loved indoor soccer, and had so much fun. So, in the summer I tried out for the rep team, and at the tryouts the coach asked if anyone would go in goal. There were about eight of us 12 year olds putting up our hands so we all rotated. Then, at the end of tryout, the coach asked how badly I wanted to be on the team, and if I was willing to be goalkeeper. I guess I was the least fearful of the ball. 

c/o Stephanie Labbé

c/o Stephanie Labbé

TG: And the rest is history. What did your parents think about that?

SL: Well, luckily growing up I played for a very good team. So, really just the extent of my mom’s nerves would be her leg kicking a lot as I played. The older I get, the better she is with her nerves. Now, she’s way more calm when I’m in net, and ironically she’s actually more nervous when our strikers are shooting during the game.

TG: That’s funny. Well, she definitely has a million reasons to feel calm about you in goal after seeing all the success you’ve had over the years…Do your own nerves ever affect you, or translate into weird soccer dreams?

SL: So, I actually never get to play soccer in my dreams. I do have recurring nightmares where I’m about to start a game and I don’t have a cleat or can’t find a glove, and something’s gone wrong. It’s probably why I am soooooo particular about checking my bag. *Steph chuckles*

TG: Reading your Player’s Tribune article, you talked about playing men’s soccer being a really mentally and physically challenging part of your career. Do you ever find it difficult to speak candidly about the differences in men’s versus women’s games without feeling like you’re giving fuel to the haters to hold against women?

SL: I have never had a hard time comparing the women’s game versus men’s game. People can say what they want to say. I’ve heard a lot of negative things, but to be honest I wouldn’t be where I am if I put a lot of thought into what people care about what I say. I don’t give a sh!t to be frank (Editor’s note: preach sister!). I know that not all men have a genetic, biological advantage, but on average, most do. I’m aware and recognize that. There are anomalies out there and women who can come overcome those. And what should stop you from pursuing any challenge? The risk is yours. I understand that every time I go out and play with men, or women, who are bigger, faster, stronger than me that I’m putting myself at risk. You can say that about anything in life. 

If you’re going to live your life being scared of the negative things that can happen, then you aren’t going to go anywhere. 

I always try to live optimistically. 

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TG: Amazing! So, a huge story with women’s soccer has been what’s going on with the U.S. women’s team and the fight for equity. What is the relationship like pay equity-wise with the women’s program in Canada and with Canada Soccer?

SL: Unfortunately in Canada, it’s a bit untalked about in a sense. We, as a national team, have a fairly good relationship with Canada Soccer. Year over year, our talks and contracts get better and better, so it’s moving in a positive direction. But it’s still nowhere near where it should be. 

The words “equal pay” and “equality” get thrown around interchangeably, but equality is a very complex issue, and it’s not just about getting paid equally — it’s marketing, support and investment. 

You can see the direction it’s moving, but you also see Canada Soccer investing in a brand new professional league for men, while we’re the only national women’s program ranked in the top 10 in the world that doesn’t have our own domestic professional league (Editor’s note: As Canada is hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026, they are required to have a domestic professional league). That is still so heartbreaking. We have proven time and time again, since 2012 when the team won Olympic bronze, that we are performing and getting results (Editor’s note: The Canadian women’s national team is currently ranked eighth in the world, while the men’s team is 73rd)

I think the successful future of this program is based on developing players in Canada. And, as of right now, we have to go abroad and get contracts to play soccer in other countries. It hurts our depth. We don’t have a league to give players the chance to grow and shine and prove they can play on the national team. Women stop playing after university because they can’t get a contract abroad, but if we had our own domestic league those players wouldn’t fall through the cracks because they’d have a place to play to develop. 

So, it’s moving in a positive direction, but there is still a long way to go. It’s amazing the U.S. team is using their platform to talk about it and bring this subject to light. They’re talking, they’re acting, and they’re paving the way.

TG: That is so important and so candid. Wow. Thank you for that. Looking ahead, what is your vision for 2020?

SL: Post-Olympics is a blur and unknown. The immediate thing that comes to mind is that January is Olympic qualifying. And, for the Olympics, we want to bring back a better colour than bronze. And, secondly, because I don’t just play for Canada full-time, I’m also looking forward to playing with my pro team (North Carolina Courage) and trying to win a back-to-back national championship with them.

Stephanie & Georgia Simmerling

Stephanie & Georgia Simmerling

TG: That’s great! Okay, let’s end on some rapid-fire questions!

TG: If soccer had walk-out songs (like baseball), what would your song be?

SL: Oh my gosh. This is awesome. I want to say Cindy Lauper “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.”  Everyone would love it!

TG: Would you rather sing or act?

SL: I would love to have a great singing voice, but I’m terrible. AIso, I don’t know if the lifestyle of a singer would be what I want. So, actress. 

TG: What is your favourite winter Olympic sport to watch?

SL: My gut is going to hockey. It’s such a passion of mine and part of mine and my family’s life. But I’ll be honest, after meeting Georgia, I really enjoy watching skiing and ski cross. It’s way more exciting for me when she is not racing, because then I am way less nervous. I got the chance to watch it live two years ago in the Alps. It was so fun and so much adrenaline. I have a short attention span so it caters to that.

TG: What is your favourite sports movie?

SL: Classic Mighty Ducks

TG: What movie can you quote the best?

SL: Probably Billy Madison. “I got this shirt from Frank”... and Frank is written on the inside of it. I say it all the time. *Stephanie chuckles*

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⛷️Dara Howell

March 17, 2020
Dara Howell

Two-time Olympian Dara Howell is truly amazing. At the ripe age of 19, Dara won a gold medal at the debut of slopestyle skiing at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. No big deal! Dara competed in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics before being sidelined in late 2018 with a season-ending knee injury. Now she’s back with a fresh perspective, a fresh podium finish at the most recent World Cup and...Dara wants to become the best freestyle skier in the world. 

Lexie at The GIST (TG): Okay slopestyle skiing. You’re essentially tossing yourself off of cliffs and doing jumps while on sticks. How did you get into it? Were you a daredevil as a kid?

DH: I was always a daredevil! *Dara chuckles* My mom always thought I would go to the Olympics in something, but she never knew which sport because I was always doing different things. 

Growing up, my family owned a small family resort in Huntsville, ON (Pow Wow Point Lodge). My parents had it for 27 years, and my grandparents owned it for 25 years, so skiing was very much a part of my family. My granddad is actually still a skier, and he just turned 96. He still skis at 96! 

It was always in my nature to be adventurous. My older brother and I were always outside and active, plus we basically grew up on the water living in Huntsville.

I think my parents just kind of threw me on skis around 18 months old because my brother was already into it *Dara chuckles*.

c/o Dara Howell

c/o Dara Howell

LH: That’s so amazing. How did you get into slopestyle, especially given it was a new Olympic sport for Sochi 2014?

DH: I grew up ski racing and figure skating from an early age, those were my two biggest sports. I eventually quit those. I thought ski racing was too disciplined. And, it was cold! *Dara laughs* And figure skating I enjoyed, but I really just loved the jumps, and I wasn’t as good at the dance component. So when I decided to stop around the age of 15, my dad told me I had to get a job, so I became a Level 1 ski instructor at Hidden Valley in Huntsville and taught little kids. Then, on my off time I would hang out with my ski friends in the park (Editor’s note: the “park” is where all the jumps, half-pipes, etc. are), and got connected to doing tricks there.

Slopestyle skiing is basically downhill racing combined with the jumping aspect of figure skating, so it’s weird how it’s all come full circle and led me to this wild path.

TG: It was meant to be! In 2014, you won Gold at the inaugural Olympic slopestyle skiing event in Sochi, Russia, which is just unreal — what were your feelings going in?

DH: Going into Sochi 2014, I was hungry. I was fighting so hard because I believed in myself so much and just wanted to do the best that I could do...and I knew anything was possible. I was definitely the underdog. I wasn’t really on the radar as someone who would win and it wasn’t supposed to be my time.

So there was no real pressure, no one really knew who I was, and I was just set on what I was doing. 

I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from achieving what I knew I was capable of. 

And, my family just bought in 100%. They have always supported me and told me I can achieve whatever I put my mind to. So I came in with no expectations, other than just wanting to do my best.

I look back on it now as a blessing. At the time, it was frustrating and hard. Luckily my family was amazing and supported me.

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TG: That’s unreal, but I know it wasn’t easy for you and your feelings towards winning have been complicated. Can you talk about your relationship with winning the Gold medal, and where you’re at now? 

DH: It’s definitely better. I’ve really put in the work in myself, and my skiing. And I have a bit more perspective as I get older. I now appreciate my medal more, and what my family and community did to help me get that medal. I definitely was not bitter towards it, but I had some feelings after the Olympics. I think as you get older, you learn more about yourself, and to appreciate things more. I would never take my medal for granted, it’s taught me so much about myself, both good and bad, and it’s given me so many opportunities.

TG: How important is working on, and prioritizing, the mental aspect of being an athlete? What does your physical and mental workout regime look like?

DH: The mental side is huge! I think for any athlete it is. For me personally, I’m throwing myself off of massive jumps. So, the mental side is massive because of what you’re putting your body through. And I think that’s what really makes a good athlete ⁠— having that strong mental game. I really work at allowing myself to process and properly think things through. I try to be a very smart athlete. I listen to my gut a lot and learning to trust yourself is a really important thing. The stronger you are mentally, the better athlete you are. And the more prepared you are for success.

I work with a sports psychologist and I love it. She helps me become more aware of my thought process and what I need to do to bring the tension down. Just being more aware of what’s going through your brain and making changes as you go so that you are in a healthy mindset, that will really help you be successful. 

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TG: So, you’re coming off of a HUGE bronze medal at your first World Cup appearance since your season-ending knee injury in October 2018. What was that like?

DH: Honestly it was pretty wild! I tore my ACL last year in my first contest of the year, and that kind of put things on a different path for me. So coming back a couple of weeks ago with a podium finish was pretty special to me.

I think before I left for it, my dad was telling me, “expectations, not too high!” Obviously my expectations were still going to be high, but it actually went better than even I was planning. I surprised myself a little bit. Now it’s go time, and I have to find a way to keep building off of that. 

TG: That’s awesome. Now, what’s next for you? What are you working toward?

DH: I’m just focused on coming back strong. I want to be the best athlete that I can be. I don’t want to let the injury take over. Going through last year, I had to think about whether or not I was going to come back, and why I was going to come back. 

I love skiing, love pushing myself, and now...I want to be the best. And I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but I really feel if I continue to work hard and be smart, that’s a real possibility for me.

So going into this season I want to be smart with my expectations, but push myself to get on the podium. I really want to push myself in Big Air, that’s really where I see a lot of potential for me (Editor’s note: Big Air is generally one large jump versus slopestyle which is a series of jumps and tricks on a short course). I love to jump, and it’s a new discipline. It’s got this fun, intense vibe about it. Do those words even go together? *Dara laughs*  But that’s where I’m at. I want to go to X-Games. I’m going to China for a competition soon. I just want to have fun, and set myself up for success. And it’s really important to have fun, because good things happen when you do.

TG: Absolutely. That’s what sports are really all about! You’ve also launched Dara’s Women Into Sports Fund. Can you tell us more about it and why it’s important to you?

DH: Yes! My family and I started “Dara’s Fund” a few years ago. I grew up in a small community where I had a lot of support. But in a small community, it’s especially hard to find the right facilities to excel in sports. You often have to travel for the sport, and there are a lot of extra costs versus in a larger city where the resources are more accessible. So, it was important for us to give back to the Muskoka community and encourage more girls to get into sport, and help them know they can succeed and excel. Coming from a small community shouldn’t hinder young athletes, especially young girls, in any way and actually with the right support, you should be even more setup for success.

It’s really cool to see the amount of girls that apply to the fund, and all of the different sports they play ⁠— it’s really inspiring. There is a fencer that has the potential to go to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and it’s so amazing to see. If we can help support them in any way possible, even in the smallest way, that’s amazing.

It’s important for me to give back when so many people have helped, and continue to help, me along my journey. So this fund really stems from that, and now I want to be able to pay it forward and help other female athletes.

TG: That is incredible, Dara! So awesome you’re doing that. 

TG: Okay, let’s end on some rapid-fire questions.

TG:  If you could be an athlete at Summer Olympics, what sport would you want to compete in?

DH: Trampoline!

TG: So on brand for you! What are you binge watching right now?

DH: Oh my gosh I watch everything on Netflix. I just watched Supergirl — it was good!

TG: Who is your favourite athlete?

DH: Lindsey Vonn

TG: Do you believe in aliens?

DH: No!

TG: Ooh controversial! What stereotypical millennial item do you splurge on the most?

DH: Almond milk cappuccino

TG: What’s your all-time favourite concert?

DH: Dierks Bentley. I’m a country girl!

TG: Looking at your Instagram, when can we expect your pro career in golf to start?

DH: Hopefully tomorrow! *Dara laughs* I’m going for the longest drive after I’m done skiing. I’m going to get my ski coach to be my golf coach, he actually does both!

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🏂Calynn Irwin

March 17, 2020
Calynn Irwin

Calynn Irwin is an Olympic half-pipe snowboarder and all-around rad person. At the ripe age of 16, Calynn started her career with a bang participating in her first World Cup, and finished it off by competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. Now, she’s trading in her snowboard for home renovating (more on that later), and crushing another male-dominated field. Let’s get to our interview with Calynn.

Lexie at The GIST (TG): Snowboarding! As a Torontonian! How did you first get into the sport?

Calynn Irwin (CI): I grew up in a family of ski racers at Georgian Peaks in Collingwood, ON. My grandparents were members of the club, so all of my family and extended family were members  there as well. I grew up skiing at first and I think I just got bored ski-racing and just doing the same thing over and over again (nothing against ski racing!). I remember noticing a bunch of snowboarders in the park nearby where no skis (only snowboards) were allowed. So at eight years old, I started skipping ski lessons, found a snowboard at the rental shop and started to teach myself snowboarding by watching the older kids. I think I just about gave my parents a heart attack from skipping lessons… the instructors would tell them to just look for me in the park, and that’s where they would find me.

I always had an obsession with the Olympics growing up, and as soon as 1998 Nagano Olympics introduced snowboarding, I turned to my parents and said, “that’s what I’ll go to the Olympics for.” I saw it, and I knew it was possible. 

c/o of Calynn’s Instagram  @caleventures

c/o of Calynn’s Instagram @caleventures

TG: And you did! So amazing. Okay, so the rumour is that you’re done competing. Is that true? What are you up to now?

CI: Yes, it’s true. I’m in school full-time right now studying home renovation and project management at George Brown in Toronto. I’m also working for a contractor doing home renovations when I have time…it’s fun to still do something physical and creative.

I always liked art and building things growing up, and a couple of summers ago my dad and I built a small cabin up at our cottage. I really liked that, and in my off-seasons I started working with different contractors. Then in June, after I retired I decided to go to school for home renovation. It’s weird being back at school. Some of my classmates and friends are about 18-years-old. *Calynn laughs*

With sports and snowboarding, I’m so passionate, and I kind of felt that same spark of passion from building things as I do when I play sports, so it’s really nice. It also made me realize that you can have more than one passion.

TG: That’s really great that you’ve found another passion, but I’m sure it was still difficult to retire from snowboarding. What was that process like?

CI: It was hard, I definitely got sad. At the end of the day, it was the right choice to make. I remember when I made the decision to retire: it was last October while I was at a training camp in Switzerland. I just kept getting hurt. On the first day I hurt my neck. So I wasn’t snowboarding much there. Then, I watched two of my friends get airlifted off the mountain doing tricks that I didn’t even want to try, but knew if I wanted to stay relevant and compete with all of the young talent coming up, I would eventually have to try them. So seeing my friends, and knowing I would have to try tricks like that, I really wasn’t getting fired up to snowboard like I used to.

My injury ended up sidelining me all season. I maybe went out three times. It turns out it was actually a concussion. But yeah, I was sidelined basically the whole season while watching people get injured doing tricks that I didn’t want to try. So I had a decision to make — do I want to be able to play sports with my friends when I’m my parents age, or do I want to go on for another four years and potentially have a worse injury come along? I just had to think about the quality of life I wanted for the rest of my life. It comes to a point where you have to decide if the risk outweighs the reward.

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TG: Wow, that’s great perspective, but obviously easier said than done to actually make that decision...

CI: Yeah, for sure. So a little bit more on my background — I actually had a concussion when I was 17 that completely took me out of sports for two years. And at that time, they didn’t really know much about concussions, and the doctors thought I probably wouldn’t be able to compete in snowboarding again. That experience forced me to find other things that I’m interested in and not be so solely focused on snowboarding. In turn, when I did get back into snowboarding, it helped me have a nice balance in my life, and not put so much emphasis on this one sport.

I see so many kids picking one sport and pushing themselves so hard in only that, but I think it’s so important to play a variety of different sports, and do different things to have a balance. Because if it comes to a point where you can’t participate in the main sport you grew up with, then you’ll at least have found other things that bring positivity to your life.

My goal in the future is to work with kids and help create more balance. I want to inspire people, especially young girls, to stay active, and that doesn’t mean just in one sport.

TG: That’s awesome, Calynn! You’ve overcome a lot, but what would you say is maybe the most “un-glorious” side of being an Olympian the average person doesn’t see?

CI: In my sport specifically, our runs are less than 30-seconds long. And we have two runs so a total of 60-seconds. And that’s what everyone sees. And, for someone like me, I fell on both of my runs at the Olympics. So it’s difficult because whenever someone hears you’re an Olympian they automatically say “how’d you do?” or “did you win a medal?” — that’s the question I get asked all the time. You know, someone once told me that your chance of making the Olympics is something like one in a million. So then winning a medal, the odds of that are…I don’t even know. But no one sees what you go through to get there. 

I was at a wedding and this guy sitting next to me said, “Oh you’re an Olympian? Did you have fun?” And I said, “Yeah, I had the best time ever. I’m really proud and so thankful to represent Canada.” And he asked, “How’d you do? Did you win a medal?” And I said, “No, I fell on both of my runs, but I’m really proud just to have made it there.” And he said, “How could you be proud of that? Were your parents there? Were they proud?” And I said, “Yeah, I think that’s the most proud they’ve ever been.” And he said, “How could they be proud of you falling at the Olympics?” 

And I...I took the deepest breath ever, and I just said, “Well, I’m proud of myself because for the last 15-20 years all I’ve been working toward is to be at the Olympics, and my parents were proud of me because they’ve seen every up and, more importantly, every down along the way that I went through just to be able to stand at the top of that half-pipe…” and then I told him he was being rude and I was going to politely remove myself from the conversation.

So, yeah, that’s the toughest part. Those types of questions from people who don’t understand what it takes to actually get there.

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TG: Oh my gosh, that’s actually so wild he said that. You were so patient with him. Kudos.  So, snowboarding is traditionally a male-dominated sport… do you see that changing?

CI: When I first started on the provincial team it was all guys. I’ve never even had a female coach…that definitely needs to change. It’s huge! Having female coaches is a big, big, BIG deal because if little girls only see male coaches and male athletes doing well in their sport, it’s not a very promising outlook for their future. 

While I have had some amazing male coaches, if there are more female coaches around and available to cultivate these young athletes and especially help young girls see that they can be successful too, it can make a huge difference. It would also help young female athletes have role models to relate to —  growing up with all guys was really tough, I do wish I had more female coaches and teammates around. And now, you just hear such bad stories about, for lack of a better term, “locker room talk,” and as a young girl that made me feel not great, so I really hope to see some changes. 

It’s still like that today in the half-pipe world. Right now, there’s only one girl on the national team, but I know there are tons of girls that want to try it. There are a lot of barriers, and not just for young girls...

Half-pipe developed so quickly as a sport. When I first started riding half-pipe, the walls were 16-feet high. Now, they’re 22-feet high. So as the walls got bigger, all of these ski clubs that had 16-feet half-pipes just got rid of them. So there aren’t a lot of places for kids to learn the sport because there aren’t even half-pipes on the hills. There’s actually only one 22 ft. half-pipe and it’s in Calgary. The Canadian Olympic Park in Calgary also has a mini-pipe for kids to learn on that’s about 6-feet. 

Because, that’s the other thing, it’s really tough for kids to learn on something that’s basically eight-times their size. You wouldn’t send a six-year-old off of that. It’s so intimidating! When I was training in Calgary, I’d see all of the little kids learning on the mini-pipe, and it was awesome, there were about 50 of them, and they just looked like little blobs on their snowboards, they were just so pumped up. I wish that other provinces and ski resorts could see that, and see how excited these kids are. It’s such a small thing, but so valuable in terms of getting kids to try the sport.

TG: That’s really interesting, and unfortunate. Do you see Sport Canada or any governing body ever stepping in to help?

CI: It’s tough because with all winter sports...especially snow sports that involve mountains like skiing and snowboarding, you’re a bit at the mercy of weather, and now that we’ve kind of entered into this time period with climate change where sometimes a resort might not even have enough snow to make a half-pipe, it’s really challenging.

These are all man-made, so the cost of that is enormous, and it’s tough foreseeing anyone fork over that kind of money. And that’s not to say that half-pipe is a dying sport by any means, but it will definitely become a sport you’ll have to go to specific places to access a good facility. 

TG: Very true. Okay, let’s end on some fun, rapid-fire questions!

TG: What is your favourite TV show of all-time?

CI: Survivor!  

TG: And what are you binge watching right now?

CI: This Is Us… lots of feelings!

TG: You’re a huge Toronto sports fan, but if you had to pick only one Toronto team to watch, which one would you pick?

CI: Okay, that’s like the hardest question I’ve ever been asked…I’ll have to say the Toronto Blue Jays!

TG: Wow, you’re a committed fan! What Summer Olympic sport would you want to compete in? 

CI: Archery.

TG:  If the Toronto Maple Leafs got their own team dog, what would you name it?

CI: Bud! 

TG: LOVE that! If there’s a movie made about your life, who would play you? 

CI: Anna Kendrick.

TG: What is the most embarrassing song you know every word to?

CI: “Baby Shark” *Calynn chuckles*

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