North Vancouver’s Brodie Seger says he gets the same question every time he goes to Europe to compete.
It doesn’t matter that he was born in 1995, more than a decade after the Crazy Canucks carved a hole into the skiing establishment with their wild racing style. The old-world ski watchers still want to know if these young guys from across the pond are strong enough to grab some glory like their Crazy predecessors did, or are they going to get stuck in the shadows.
“That’s the first thing that comes up every time, whether it’s from the press or just a fan in the street that sees ‘Canada’ on our jacket,” Seger said with a laugh when the North Shore News caught up with him this week. “They always want to know if we're the Crazy Canucks, if we're the Cowboys, like are we gonna have a new name or something? … It's a hard identity to run from but it's also a really cool piece of our history in the sport. The more we see that, the more we understand how big that era was and what kind of impact those guys left on the sport.”
But there have been several generations of racers since those Crazy Canuck days, and the 26-year-old Seger is a member of a new group getting its chance to prove their worth against the world’s best. He will have a shot at the sport’s biggest stage next month as he competes in his first Olympic Games – this week Seger was confirmed as a member of the Canadian Olympic team, and today he is on a flight to Beijing to begin preparations for the Games.
“I honestly don't think it's fully sunk in yet,” he said. “I'm sure it's gonna hit me when I get off the plane and I'm in Asia for the first time in my life. … It’s surreal. To think that this is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, it's kind of hard to wrap my head around that. But it puts a smile on my face when I think about it. It's very exciting.”
Seger can pinpoint the exact time in his life when he went from a kid from North Vancouver who enjoyed zipping around the slopes of Whistler to a highly focused skier locked into a tuck position, aimed at the sport’s highest levels.
He was a 13-year-old dabbling in ski racing, doing well in his local events but without any real plans beyond the slope in front of him. He started stagnating a bit, and a local coach – former national team skier Jamie Finlayson – helped guide him through the decision of whether or not he really wanted to push himself to his peak performance.
“I'd never skied in the summer and done any summer camps like that – I didn't know that was a thing,” he said.
Seger decided to go for it, to dedicate himself to going as fast as possible, and he’s been picking up speed ever since. He made his debut on the World Cup circuit in 2017, establishing himself as one of Canada’s top young skiers at a time when veterans such as Erik Guay and Manuel Osborne-Paradis were retiring from the national team. Seger’s biggest result by far came at the 2021 world championships in Italy, where he finished fourth in Super G.
That was about one year before the Olympic Games, and Seger will be looking to score a similar result, if not a step or two higher to get onto the podium, next month in Beijing. It’ll be an interesting challenge for all of the racers because none of them know much about the course they will be racing. Their only chance to try it – a test event nearly two years ago – was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“Nobody has really seen this track in person,” said Seger. “We're all starting from the same place. So it's going to be interesting to see how that shakes down.”
Seger, however, isn’t interested in setting a certain ranking as his definitive goal for the Games. His first time competing at the Olympics will be about more than chasing a number.
“My goal for this Olympics is to get in the start gate fully trusting myself, skiing with confidence, staying focused on what I can actually do on the course, what I can control, and not worrying too much about these outside things like results, or overanalyzing the line of the course and all that,” he said. “I think it kind of goes along with the whole idea of not just treating this like any other race. I think some people try to look at it that way when they go to a big event, like let's just treat it like any other race and not make a big deal out of it. But I think it is a big deal. I think it's a special experience. Not everybody gets to do this. So I want to approach it from that point of view.”
Seger and his young teammates don’t have the track record to match those Crazy Canucks of old, but now is their biggest moment yet to start making a name for themselves. When he goes to Beijing, Seger will be thinking about the people who helped him get this far.
“It really makes me think about where I've come from and how many people have been a part of this along the way,” he said. “Everybody from the coaches I've had at every level to the volunteers who busted their asses to get our races off in tough conditions, even when we were a bunch of little kids and it didn't necessarily count for much. It really does take a village. And even the guys that I grew up racing with, who taught me to push myself and how we could push each other and be competitive but have a lot of fun with it. I wouldn't have made it to this point without any of those people. That's what I'm thinking about most as I sort of check this dream off of my list.”
The men’s downhill at the Beijing games is scheduled to run Sunday, Feb. 6, while the Super G is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 8.