The Legend of the Crazy Canucks Olympic Alpine Skiing Team | On the Line

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From 1975 to 1984, the Crazy Canucks defined what it meant
to be the best in the world, mostly in downhill, but it
defined it because they were individuals
who worked together, who pushed each other, who encouraged
and empowered each other to beat whatever came their
way, regardless of the size of the
team, the budgets or the support they
had. It was five guys
making and taking the world to a new level of excellence
in alpine ski racing. Hello, Steve here. Yes, I’m one of the Crazy
Canucks, the Canadian ski team
that started maybe with nothing and ended up having to be
the very best in the world. I think everybody had different
strengths and different weaknesses. What happened is
we complemented each other. Dave Irwin was very
competitive, he would never slow down. Dave Murray was more
thoughtful, he would look at things
from a different point of view. Ken took things in a very
ambitious and number side. He really looked at statistics. And I was very technical, I really looked strongly at the approach
to the race in the hill. There was also another man
who was what we call the original Crazy Canuck,
Jungle Jim Hunter. He was just an amazing skier, so each of us brought a
strength and we complemented each other. Hello, Jim Hunter. Here I was, an 18-year-old that was now
the number one skier in Canada. And I’m “The National
Ski Team”. They added a bunch
of young guys with me, but very few of them had the determination
and the will to do it. And, in a sense, I set the bar for what it meant
to be on the national team. We didn’t have a lot of money, we didn’t have a lot of
coaches, we didn’t have a lot of
support, but we did have
the leadership that understood that we had to help each other. And none of us
could have made it alone, we had to make it by helping
each other be better and I think that that’s really
why the Crazy Canucks are so, to this day,
remembered and endeared. Hello, you’re calling early. Innsbruck was a very important
Olympics for the Crazy Canucks. That was our first Olympics. We’d been around
on the World Cup tour, but Innsbruck was the first
we’d all had been in. I would say that the
Crazy Canucks were just beginning to become
a real force in Alpine skiing. Hello, I’m Ken Read. That was our first year
as a group that we collectively were competitive. People didn’t think Canadians
had that skill set to be able to ski
amongst the best in the world. The funny thing
that emerged was that because of the
intense rivalries that go on in the Alps, especially Switzerland and
Austria, amongst the big five, that we were outside of that. We were a new force
that came in as a team and so we became
everybody’s second favourite. We put radios at the start,
we put a radio at the finish, the coach was on the course. We weren’t like the other teams that had multiple coaches
all over the course. We just helped each other, and when we saw something
that would help each other, we told each other. We, in essence,
were racers coaching racers. We were looking for speed in
places that others weren’t looking. And so when you
tried something new, sometimes it doesn’t work. And the penalty in
alpine ski racing is that you have a crash. So yes, we were trying things
that others wouldn’t do. Sometimes it worked
and we’d win, and sometimes
it didn’t work and we’d fall. I’ve probably had… I don’t
even know how many I’ve had, eight or ten head injuries. But I’ve had three severe head
injuries. That’s interesting
how I’m still recovering now, and I know I’ve recovered 100%, except for that 20-year memory
loss which I had, it’s gone, I’ll never get it. We took chances that most other
racers wouldn’t take. But we survived and I’m grateful that we all
survived. If you look at the five of us,
we all had personality, and most athletes don’t have
that. In fact, I’d say that’s what’s
missing from most of
international sport and certainly professional
sport today. Our outcome of having three in
the top ten, fifth, eighth, tenth, was,
erm…bittersweet. We felt
we could have done better, but we knew as a team that we
had done our country proud. As an athlete, I had a bitter
regret that I hadn’t taken
that little extra risk to try to push for the medal, and that was the difference
between first and fifth. Steve Podborski actually didn’t
race in Innsbruck cos he was hurt. Dave Irwin finished eighth,
which was very commendable given that he had been
off the circuit nearly a month. Jim finished tenth. And Dave Murray, I think,
finished 13th or 15th or somewhere around there. He was a little bit
disappointed with his performance. It was after that
that things changed. And they did change. I don’t want to pretend that we
were friends from then on, from then on, it was
like I was a different guy and they were over here
and I was over there. Nobody did that on purpose, it
was just the way it took place. I look back at my years
with the Crazy Canucks with a great deal of pride. Because we were able
to set a new standard of skiing in Canada
and worldwide. We were able to have
an influence on our sport and become part of
its culture and its history. It proved that Canadians
could be competitive in men’s sport and in
particular at alpine ski racing. (FROM 1974 TO 1984) (THE CRAZY CANUCKS WON A TOTAL
OF 39 WORLD CUP PODIUMS) (KEN READ BECAME THE FIRST
NORTH AMERICAN ALPINE SKIER) (TO WIN A WORLD CUP DOWNHILL
RACE) (STEVE PODBORSKI’S BRONZE WAS
THE ONLY OLYMPIC MEDAL (THE CRAZY CANUCKS EVER
ACHIEVED)

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