THE OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE

Photo by Ilana Barkusky

Photo by Ilana Barkusky

Author: Austin Stanton

The Olympics are winter sports’ biggest spectacle. For two weeks every four years, the sporting world is enthralled by the Games. In 2018, Ontario’s Evan McEachran realized his Olympic dream. It was an experience he’ll never forget.

Evan, 21, grew up skiing at Craigleith Ski Club, making his first turns at the age of one. He joined a local Freestyle program when he was nine and progressed to the Freestyle Ontario Pipe & Park team by age 11.

The Oakville, Ont., native’s prodigious talent earned him a spot on the Freestyle Canada Slopestyle team in 2012, making the PyeongChang Olympics Evan’s first realistic chance to participate in the Games.

Qualifying for the Games was unlike any challenge he’d faced before.

“For me the hardest part of the Olympics was just getting there in the first place,” smiled Evan. “There’s a lot of pressure at the events leading up to it. I was thinking if I don’t make it now, I have to wait four years to try and make it again. Once I decided that the only thing I could do is ski my best, and have fun, that’s when it all came together.”

Evan secured his spot on the Canadian Olympic team after one of his most successful days as a professional.

He competed in a World Cup and Grand Prix event at Mammoth on the same day, finishing third in the morning event, and taking home gold in the evening.

“When I found out I was going to the Olympics that was pretty much the most exciting day ever,” said Evan. “Being able to spend it with everyone on the team, all together, and take it all in it was awesome.”

A veteran of the World Cup circuit and multiple Winter X-Games, Evan is no stranger to competing on Freestyle Skiing’s biggest stages. But, the Olympics was a step-up in media scrutiny, public visibility, and in other ways from those events.

“I wasn’t used to the whole experience. Like going through security to get to dinner, seeing other athletes everywhere, watching people have these huge success stories, and how it all blows up,” noted Evan. “I had to remember that I was happy to make it there, and my job was to show how fun skiing was to the big audience that was watching.”

After settling in to Olympic life, Evan was ready to get down to business on the slopes. As one of the world’s most technically sound rail skiers, Evan knew he had a chance to set himself apart on the course’s massive rail features, even competing against the world’s best.

In practice, Evan worked on nailing down the run the he’d been developing since the course’s specs were released months in advance of the Games. He was in a great headspace heading into the qualifying.

“After the last practice. My teammates and I hugged it out and said we’re here, and we’ll be Olympians forever after this,” said Evan. “It was actually one of the least stressful competitions of my life because it was an honour and pleasure to be there in the first place.”

His relaxed attitude and comfortability with the course showed as Evan qualified for finals and held the early finals lead after stomping his first run.

He wound up finishing just off the podium in sixth place, after being unable to improve on his first-run score, but that didn’t take away from the experience.

“To put down my run in the first run of finals was the best feeling ever,” said Evan. “I had a few little bobbles, that if I’d improved on them in my later runs, then I could have bumped my result up to something better. But I was happy I was able to handle the pressure and do the run I’d been planning.”

With the Slopestyle finals taking place on Day 9 of the Games, Evan had almost a full week after his event was done to soak in everything the Games had to offer.

“It was so much fun. I met so many people and saw so many events I’d never see unless I go to the Games again,” said Evan. “We signed up at our lodging to see certain events, and we tried to watch as many different sports as we could. It was really cool.”

Forging new relationships with athletes from other sports, was another part of the Games Evan enjoyed. He loved being on the Canadian Olympic Team.

“Just being in the Canadian athlete lounge, everyone was crowded in there,” said Evan. “They were screaming and cheering for each other, and to know that’s going on while you’re competing is a great feeling.”

Back on Canadian soil, Evan started to realize how much skiing in the Olympics raised his profile. He first experienced it at a bar in Oakville, where the bartender recognized him, and told him on the night of the Slopestyle event, the bar was packed, the event was on every T.V., and everyone was cheering him on.

“It’s super cool to have people recognize you as the skier that was in the Olympics,” said Evan. “They tell you how good of a job you did, how fun it looked, and ask about the experience. It opens up new connections and you get to meet a lot of people out of it, which I love.”


Click here to view the 2018-19 online edition of the Freestyle Ontario Magazine