Canadian Snowboarder Gets Early Start at HoliMont
Darren Gardner Sets Sights on 2014 Olympics
by Eva Potter
Before they even made snowboarding boots small enough to fit preschoolers, Darren Gardner, from Burlington, Ontario, Canada, was hitting the slopes of HoliMont wearing ski boots strapped to his freestyle snowboard. At age four, he didn’t care what he was wearing as long as he was allowed to snowboard.
When he was old enough to begin competing at the age of 7, Gardner had a choice to make.
“I knew I didn’t want to ski, so the snowboard race program at HoliMont seemed like the perfect fit,” he said. “Scott Carter was my first coach, though my Dad taught me how. Still to this day, I contact him whenever I’m having troubles in my riding or need some guidance.”
Since then, Gardner has had no regrets and hasn’t looked back. In 2009, he made the Canadian Development Team, and in 2010, he was placed on the Canadian National Team.
“The federation takes care of their athletes. It’s nice to be recognized for my hard work, but at the same time it’s just a title,” he said humbly.
According to Gardner, there are five men on the Canadian National Alpine Snowboard Team and three more on the development team, and they spend a lot of time traveling together.
Gardner said, “It’s a great environment to train in. We all work together to get better and all have a common goal, which I think is great.”
Currently, Gardner is a full-time racer on the World Cup circuit.
“I also pop into some Europa Cups and North American Cups when the schedule fits, as it does for the Holiday Valley Nor-Am coming up,” he said. “I won the Nor-Am tour last year, which secured my spot on the World Cup team this year.”
Gardner has seven podium performances on the Nor-Am Tour and you can watch him race Feb. 27-28 at Holiday Valley.
Of course, Gardner’s ultimate goal is to be nominated to the Canadian Alpine Team for the February 2014 Olympic Winter Games (OWG) in Sochi, Russia. According to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games Selection Protocol, Canada Snowboard has three objectives: “to win five medals,” “to place at least 75 percent of its participating athletes in the top 16 of their events,” and “to develop athletes who have the potential to medal in the 2018 OWG.”
Gardner said his rankings fluctuate from event to event, but as far as the qualification process for the Olympics goes, “the team is selected right before the Olympics start. It’s pretty last minute, but it’s calculated, not just a last-minute decision.”
“Nothing is for certain. There are qualifications and requirements that we have to meet in order to be involved in the Olympic discussion. There are no freebies in this sport, especially when it comes to the Olympics. A spot has to be earned. We are all competing for a spot on the team, but not just the guys in my program,” he explained. “All the snowboarding events are tied together when it comes to meeting the quota for the Olympics, so I am competing with everyone in Canada Snowboard for a spot on the team.”
How has Gardner managed to make it this far?
“No tricks, just hard work! A big thing for every racer is keeping your eyes on where you want to go, which sounds easy enough, but it seems to get me from time to time,” he said.
Gardner said he’s very thankful for sponsors for supplying him with gear.
He said, “There are a lot of individual sponsors that play a big part in where I am today, which, of course, include the wonderful families at HoliMont that believe in me and what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Gardner tries to stay in touch with his Ellicottville friends whenever possible.
“I think the greatest part of Ellicottville for me is the feeling of extended family. Everyone is so welcoming and warm that it’s easy to fit in and feel comfortable in the HoliMont community,” he said.
“Most of my support comes from Ellicottville and I am very grateful for that. I try and stay in touch with all the great people here as much as I can, though it gets a bit tricky during the season due to all the travel and the constant go-go-go mentality. But I love Christmas time. It gives me a chance to come back here and enjoy everyone’s company before I head back on the road.”
For now, Gardner’s short-term goal is treat each race as a qualifier for World Cup Finals, “which means the top 16 riders that day.”