By Deb Everts
HoliMont Ski Resort member Darren Gardner will fulfill his dream as a competitor in the Winter Olympics as he heads to PyeongChang, South Korea, to represent Team Canada in the parallel giant slalom.
“It is certainly an honor and I’m very proud to wear the maple leaf. To be a part of such an amazing team is something special,” Gardner said. “This will be my first games as a competitor. I had the privilege of forerunning the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and I just missed out on being selected for the team in Sochi, so this is definitely a great feeling.”
Coming from three generations of HoliMont members, Gardner started his journey to the Winter Olympics skiing and riding the slopes of HoliMont, where he developed his skills at an early age to become a world-class competitor.
“Darren was born and bred at HoliMont,” said his mother, Donna. “He was skiing at age 2 and, after he learned how to ski, he started snowboarding at age 4.”
Now 27, Gardner said he has always looked up to his father, Bruce, whom he credits for getting him into snowboarding at such an early age and competing by age 7. When he began snowboarding at HoliMont, he competed on the U.S. circuit before switching over to the Canadian circuit. He said HoliMont is his home, and it has a great snowboard program with excellent coaches who helped him get to where he is today.
“We are very proud and supportive of Darren’s accomplishments, as well as the other athletes we produce at HoliMont who are also competing at a high-level,” said Dave Riley, general manager of HoliMont Ski Resort. “This year, we have seven participants who are on national teams — either U.S. or Canadian.
“Several of them were very close to making their team and, frankly, we were disappointed that others were not also chosen to participate in the Olympic games. Darren’s accomplishment, however, has left us absolutely thrilled and excited that he has been chosen for the Canadian Olympic Team.”
According to CBC Sports, Gardner, of Burlington, Ontario, and Jasey-Jay Anderson of Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, will represent Canada in the parallel giant slalom at the Olympic winter games. In addition to seven athletes previously nominated for slopestyle and big air, the athletes are among 13 other snowboarders in snowboard cross and halfpipe who were named Jan. 25 to Canada’s Alpine Snowboard Team.
The athletes were selected based on their performances in Federation International de Ski (FIS) Snowboard World Cup and World Championship events between July 1, 2016, and Jan. 21, 2018.
After competing in two FIS Snowboard World Cup races in Bansko, Bulgaria, Gardner returned home Jan. 29 for a short break before preparing for the games. He said these were the last of the World Cup races before heading to PyeongChang.
Along with his team, Gardner participated in the Alpine National Championships at Blue Mountain Resort, in Ontario, this week — his last race before the Olympic Games. From there, he plans to head to Canmore, Alberta, for a training camp before touching down Feb. 17 in South Korea.
He said Olympic snowboarding became his focus while watching the 1998 Nagano games when Ross Rebagliati won the first gold medal in Olympic snowboarding.
“That was the moment when I decided I wanted to do the same,” he said. “Also on that team was Jasey-Jay Anderson, who won gold in 2010. He happens to be the other team member traveling to Korea with me.”
After graduating from high school, Gardner was invited to train with the National Development team in Calgary. In 2009, he joined the Development Team and, in 2010, was named to the National Team and participated in his first World Cup Race. By 2012, he was competing full-time on the World Cup circuit.
A three-time Canadian National Champion, Gardner finished the 2016-17 season as the top-ranked Canadian man in the World Cup parallel snowboard standings and is in the Top 30 in the world. In February 2015, he achieved a career-best result of 12th place in the parallel giant slalom in Asahikawa, Japan.
Gardner will be racing in the parallel giant slalom Feb. 22 and 24, Korean time. In the U.S., people can see the televised race Feb. 21 and 23 at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. He hopes to bring home a bright, shiny medal in the Alpine snowboarding event, which pits two racers head-to-head down parallel courses.
In the off-season, Gardner lives in Squamish, British Columbia, where he attends college and trains.
To find out more about the 2018 Winter Olympics, visit pyeongchang2018.com. More information about Gardner can be found at darrengardner.ca and canadasnowboard.ca.
Just this week, it was announced that Tricia Mangan, of Derby, N.Y., has been added to the US Olympic team for Alpine Skiing. Mangan will replace Jackie Wiles, who was ruled out of the games due to a knee injury that occurred during a World Cup downhill event in Germany last weekend.
Mangan learned to ski in Ellicottville on the slopes of HoliMont. She joined the racing team at an early age, coached by many including Travis Widger, Jeff Walker and Bob Armstrong.
Mangan attended Buffalo’s Nardin Academy, and was selected for the US Ski team while still in high school.
Four years ago, when the Ellicottville Times covered Mangan’s early years on the US Ski Team at the age of 16, she told us: “The plan is I am developing myself to hopefully complete in the Olympics!” Now her dreams are coming true.
Congratulations to Tricia, Darren and all of the US Olympic athletes. Ellicottville is cheering you on!