Everything has to go right for a podium finish in World Cup snowboard cross races. Two weeks after bagging bronze in Montafon, Austria, Kevin Hill placed 23rd last weekend at Lake Louise.
The 27-year-old Vernon multi-star athlete wasn’t about to pout over the Christmas break. Instead, he applied a positive spin moving forward.
“Lake Louise didn’t go as I would have liked but it was a good building block going further towards the Olympic Games,” said Hill, whose runs were featured live on CBC Sports.
“The course was very fast come race day and it became quite the task to stay on your feet from top to bottom. I came out of the gate well but had the high line coming into the first turn pushing me back to third place.
“I chased hard top to bottom, finishing very closely behind first and second place. Because there was a lack of snow in Lake Louise, it could only be a four-man race instead of six so only two transferred on. It wasn’t the worst result I could have had. After the second World Cup of the season, I’m now ranked fifth overall in the world.”
The speed seeker gets back to work with back-to-back World Cups in Andorra, the 16th smallest country in the world, and Switzerland. He competes in his favoured XGames at the end of January with an eye towards qualifying for Sochi.
At 19, Hill started snowboarding and his love for speed and airtime brought him, a few years later, close to his goal.
Since 2010, Hill has been a leader on the Canadian snowboard cross team, having gained respect with an impressive out-of-nowhere run that came up just short of qualifying for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. He was a forerunner at the Vancouver Olympics.
Hill turned heads with a runner-up finish at the 2011 Winter X-Games. He pocketed five top-10s on the FIS World Cup circuit and beat out a strong veteran field to win a national title in 2010.
He spent 15 late August days in New Zealand, getting seven decent days of snow training.
“Riding the snowboard park in Cordrona, New Zealand, where the World Cup freestyle comp was being held later that week, was a blast, hitting jumps from 25 to 70-feet. Just being able to be on snow in the middle of our North American summer is such a nice change.
“The awesome thing was our coaches booked a five-day layover in Sydney, Australia where we enjoyed some beach time and sight-seeing along with a quick surf the day before we headed home.”
Hill and teammates then went to Ushuaia, Argentina (which is the most southern city in the world) in the middle of October. After Argentina, Hill used a three-week break to spend 10 days in Montreal for strength training.
He left for Austria in mid-November for a 12 -day training camp on the Pitzstal Glacier before the season-opening World Cup in Montafon.
“We arrived just in time for the first big snowfall of the season. We were blessed with over 50 centimetres of fresh, new snow. The team and I grabbed our free ride boards and headed for the steep and deep new chutes.
“We knew that there would still be some exposed rocks and by the end of the first day, most of us had ruined our boards but it was well worth it shredding deep powder all day long.”
After a few days of training, Team Canada made the three-hour drive to their home base of Schruns.
“Before I knew it I was in the gate anxious to start. I was able to land a very solid run on my first time trial and after crossing the line I saw I was sitting in second place which held through out the rest of the day.”
Just for the record, boadercross qualifies 48 riders so there are eight heats with six riders in each heat starting at eights.
Hill was in the eighth heat so had plenty of time to think. After two relatively poor years and the Olympics coming up very fast, he felt the pressure.
“I tried to keep calm and when the gate dropped, I had a pretty tough go. I crossed the line in third place with a photo-finish letting me transfer on to the next round. After the butterflies passed in the first round, I moved though my quarter and semi in first place.”
The one-time world-class BMX racer who also excels at cliff jumping, downhill mountain biking, surfing and wakeboarding, moved out of the gate slowly but remained composed.
“I came out of the first turn in third place which I was able to hold ‘til the bottom. Crossing the line, I knew I had just landed my first World Cup podium and met one of the requirements heading into the 2014 Olympic Games. The day was all smiles for me, but no time to celebrate because the next morning I was slated to compete in the team race with my teammate Jake Holden.
“Showing up at the team race that day, I felt a whole new feeling racing, I was confident and ready to race. My coaches said I should start out the race, meaning I would go first in the heat and when I crossed the finish line, my teammates’ gate would open. I won all three of my races from start to finish, giving my teammate a lead heading down each lap (Canada claimed silver) I felt amazing and blessed to finally feel strong and ready to take on the World Cup season.”
You can follow Hill’s road to Sochi on Twitter, @kevinhillsbx Instagram, @kevinhillsbx and Facebook, @kevinhillracing.
He carries sponsorship from: Rancho Vignola, BioX Nutrition, Fitness Max and Oakley.
He was last week named a recipient of the CANFUND grant which is not a government-funded program. People wishing to donate online, to support Canadian Olympic hopefuls can do so at: http://www.canadianathletesnow.ca/