Slopestyle skier Evan McEachran's breakthrough moment could lead to the Olympics
Canadian gets confidence boost from 1st World Cup medal
Little mistakes always seemed to cost Evan McEachran — until he took a big risk that finally landed him on a World Cup podium.
The 20-year-old Canadian slopestyle skier says poor weather conditions made it difficult to get in a good training run on that November day in Stubai, Austria. He then struggled with his speed during the first leg of the competition.
So after four years of consistently reaching finals without a medal to show for his efforts, the Oakville, Ont., native decided it was time to shake things up.
McEachran wasn't exactly sure how the rails would slide in that final run, but a split-second adjustment when his skis hit the metal allowed him to pull off a rather ambitious move. That moment of improvisation helped earn McEachran a silver medal and the chance to finally breath a sigh of relief.
"I've been waiting for a while. It's kinda been pretty unlucky for me," McEachran told CBC Sports. "So it's a crazy weight off my shoulders to finally reach the podium."
A decade in the making
A couple of weeks later, national team coach Toben Sutherland was still soaking in the moment, and for good reason — he has worked with McEachran since their time with the Ontario provincial team a decade ago.
"I'm still kind of celebrating his success from that medal because of the history," says Sutherland. "I have watched him develop as a skier and it's wonderful to finally see it come to fruition."
Sutherland also credited the young skier for his ability to adjust on the fly.
"Part of our sport is actually improv," Sutherland explains. "If things start to go sideways, you have to be able to make that quick decision to change things to make it work.
"You might not have the time to really think about it and it might have to happen in the moment. Evan has the mileage under his belt to just rely on his feeling and take it as it comes."
Foggy tré <a href="https://t.co/jwmPVEdNde">pic.twitter.com/jwmPVEdNde</a>—@EvanMcEachran
McEachran certainly has a wealth of experience to draw from, dating back to his early days at the Milton Heights Racing Club. Initially a ski racer, he started sneaking off from his parents and coaches to hit jumps and rails.
After he broke about five pairs of skis, he says, McEachran noticed everyone started to catch on to his love for freestyle skiing. By the age of nine, he had convinced his club to start a freestyle program and it wasn't long before he was entering contests around Ontario.
On a mission
But the most significant moment for McEachran may have come in the summer of 2011.
"When I started slopestyle skiing it wasn't an Olympic sport yet," he says. "But I remember the exact day I was skiing in Whistler and we all found out that it had been confirmed as an Olympic sport for 2014.
"Up to that point, the X Games was the dream, and then right after that happened I knew I wanted to go [to the Olympics] and that was my mission."
McEachran, who is aiming to make his Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, South Korea this February, wasted no time in preparing for that goal.
"I was like, holy crap, this could be a potential thing to happen in the future," he recalls. "I just wanted to work really hard and I had just started doing double flips that season. So that day was sunny and I started working on those again."
All that hard work finally paid off for McEachran when he got to experience the feeling of winning a medal this season in Austria.
More to come
Sutherland believes that McEachran will now become a more confident skier and a mainstay on the podium.
"He's got everything it takes to get on the podium," says Sutherland. "Now the trust level is that much better that he can trust himself, trust in his training, trust in his skiing."
"It's tangible, something he can hold on to, and [now] it's been proven [instead of] just being told that you were capable of it."
McEachran, who also has a pair of eighth-place results and most recently finished fourth at a Dew Tour event in Breckenridge, Colo., just might be on the verge of putting those capabilities to the test in Pyeongchang.
"If I can hopefully get another podium or improve on those eighth places, then I should have a really good shot," he says. "I don't really want to claim anything now or say anything too crazy, but I'm feeling in a very good place."