Nova Scotia athlete finds strength in the memory of a friend

Robin
Robin Short
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SNOWBOARDING

If competing in the Olympics Games in your home country isn't enough to fuel Sarah Conrad's drive, all she needs to do is glance down at her snowboard bindings, to an inscription etched with a Sharpie, a palpable reminder that inner strength and quality is not always measured by gold, silver or bronze.

'JB, this run's for you! RIP'

JB is Joel Boylan, a friend from back home who died in a car accident five years ago. He was 19.

Conrad, the Canadian Olympic halfpipe snowboarder, was a friend, but not a close friend of Boylan's. Rather, she knew him very well, just as everyone did at the Martock ski hill in Windsor, N.S., about 45 minute's from Conrad's Dartmouth home.

Canada's Sarah Conrad airs out of the pipe during the women's Olympic snowboard halfpipe qualifications at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday. - Photo by The Canadian Press

Vancouver -

If competing in the Olympics Games in your home country isn't enough to fuel Sarah Conrad's drive, all she needs to do is glance down at her snowboard bindings, to an inscription etched with a Sharpie, a palpable reminder that inner strength and quality is not always measured by gold, silver or bronze.

'JB, this run's for you! RIP'

JB is Joel Boylan, a friend from back home who died in a car accident five years ago. He was 19.

Conrad, the Canadian Olympic halfpipe snowboarder, was a friend, but not a close friend of Boylan's. Rather, she knew him very well, just as everyone did at the Martock ski hill in Windsor, N.S., about 45 minute's from Conrad's Dartmouth home.

"It's not that we were really close or anything," she said after qualifying for Thursday's halfpipe semifinal at Cypress Mountain. "It's just that he was such an icon at the home hill. When you thought of Martock, you thought of Joel. He was just such a big part of the snowboarding team in Nova Scotia that I thought I had to something.

"I don't want him to be forgotten."

Before the Vancouver Games, Conrad and friends Natasha Burgess and Andrew MacLean established the Joel Boylan Award, given to a Nova Scotia snowboarder who not only has a promising future in the sport, but who is also a good role model.

It was Joel's dream, she said, to snowboard in the Vancouver Games.

And, Conrad said, he was on his way.

"He was doing the World Cups, working his way to the Games," she said. "He literally didn't get the chance so that run is for him."

And a good one is was, enough earn her one of 12 semifinal spots from 30 overall preliminary entries. And that was after she fell during her first preliminary run.

She wasn't so lucky in the semifinal, failing to qualify for one of the final six positions.

Conrad, who turns 25 next month, is one-third of the Atlantic Canadian contingent in the Games, the others being bobsledder Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., and a chap rom Cole Harbour, N.S., named Crosby. Hockey player, apparently.

Sidney may have a leg up on Sarah in name recognition, but there is one area where she's one-upped the hockey star: this is her second Olympics having competed in the 2006 Torino Games.

Quite remarkable given Atlantic Canada isn't known for producing Olympic-calibre snowboarders.

Her introduction to snowboarding started innocently enough, following the roots of a sport that only became official by Olympic standards in 1998.

"I was skateboarding when I was about 12 or so, and I guess the thing to do in the winter was try snowboarding," she recalls. "I remember the first time I tried it: we got rentals at Martock and I was trying to figure out how to undo the bindings.

"I was hopeless. Putting the boots on, they were the biggest things I'd ever worn. I was like, 'Whoa, was it this?' Couple of falls later, and it's like, 'This is awesome.'"

She immersed herself in the sport and soon was off to western Canada to train. Then it was a spot on the national team.

The 2009 national champion, she's twice medalled on the World Cup circuit.

"There's definitely a little more pressure here," she said, "but for some reason, I wasn't even nervous at the top. When you take all the bleachers down, and you erase the crowd, it's a halfpipe and it's snowboarding and it's something I've been doing for years."

Just like Martock.

Joel would probably agree. And he'd be smiling.

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: World Cups

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Martock, Vancouver Windsor Dartmouth Cypress Mountain Atlantic Canada Summerside

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