When the Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club hosts its annual Team Scream Relay this Saturday, there will be a special guest in attendance – 10-year Canadian national team member and two time Olympian George Grey.
Grey will be in town on Feb. 11 and 12 to provide cross-country ski coaching and advice. He will also make a multi-media presentation called Good to Great at the community centre on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.
The Times Review touched based with Grey to see what kind of wisdom he would be providing. His responses can apply to anyone aspiring to a high level of sports.
What brings you to Revelstoke?
I know the ski club there has some good up and coming skiers and a lot of potential. As I came up through the system as a B.C. athlete, there wasn’t often a lot of opportunity to be around national team or Olympic athletes because cross-country skiing wasn’t at that level in Canada until the past decade.
I just thought that it would be great if I could get out to some of these clubs and offer some of the knowledge I’ve come across in my past 10 years on the national team.
I sent an e-mail about to some of my contacts saying that I am available for this winter to offer some expertise to the clubs and Revelstoke got back to me and said they would be happy to have me there.
What got you into x-country skiing and how did you become a competitive skier?
My parents moved from England to Canada because a friend got them inspired to see town of Rossland, B.C., and how outdoorsy it was. We came over for the lifestyle when i was three-years old. My dad is an avid sportsman and he put me in various sports and cross-country skiing was one of them. It seemed to be natural for me. It was one of the sports I excelled at. At a younger age, when you do well at something you enjoy it. It just went further and further and further.
We had a national team athlete visit our club and he stayed with my parents and myself. Just to see this athlete and what he’s done and become, it was very memorable for me. I just kept on going and pursued the Olympic dream, like a lot of kids do, and it came true.
What advice do you have for skiers looking to pursue competitive racing?
A big thing is patience. You don’t always come up with the results that you want. I also say that it’s the process and not the outcome. If you’re doing everything right and working on things on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter if you come 10th or 15th in a race because you just keep working and it does pay off down the road.
Often the skiers at the back of the pack when they’re younger come to the front when they’re older. Patience and perseverance.
Was that the case with you?
I was never winning things right off the bat. I was battling with one or two other guys, between 6th and 15th. I just slowly chipped away at it, got a little better, some people lost their focus and got a little worse and soon enough I was on the B.C. development team, chosen for the B.C. team, and made it to two junior World Championships.
It doesn’t happen overnight. I was never one of the winningest children out there.
What does it take to become an Olympic level athlete?
It takes a mentally tough person. You’re not necessarily born that way. It’s something you build upon because there are a lot of tough times, a lot of things go wrong, a lot of injuries
and you have to persevere through those and believe in yourself and know you will get better and you will get stronger.
My dad always told me tough times don’t last but tough people do so I sort of live by that. He also taught me it’s the process, not the outcome and eventually that leads you to greatness. You can’t make the jump when you’re 13 or 16, you can’t just say, ‘I’m going to go to the Olympics.’ You have to chip away at it and focus on little things.
Cross-country skiing is a sport of patience. You actually get stronger over time as your lungs and heart grow. There’s people on the world cup who are 40-years-old and still getting medals. You can’t expect to be 18 or 25 and make an Olympic team. It could take some time. It’s just not being dissuaded by tough times and challenges that are put in front of you.
What was the Olympic experience like for you?
Vancouver, Whistler was amazing. I went to Torino, which was great – fun and exciting, you’re overseas but in Vancouver they just did a tremendous job putting everything together.
Building the road up to Whistler, the Sea-to-Sky, that’s incredibly what they did there for the Olympics. It was above and beyond what they needed to do.
The spirit of the people – what hit me was walking to the start line. As an athlete, you get corralled, you get your transponders on your feet so they can time you. You get your skis marked – well you don’t anymore – and you walk to the stadium. I was overcome by emotion, really almost welling up with tears, because all these people were out cheering for the Canadian team, of which I was a part of.
That is something that you don’t get at many World Cups or championships or Olympics. When you’re on your home soil you really feel a sense of purpose. Because cross-country skiing isn’t particularly big in North America but it’s very big in Europe and Scandinavia in particular – to have that same feeling and sense of purpose back home made all the training and all the things we’d done over the years to get there feel worthwhile.
Visit www.revelstokenordic.org for a complete schedule of Grey’s visit.