Roni Remme: The real deal
Collingwood, Ont., native may be Canada's next great alpine skier
Roni Remme strides confidently into the room for an interview on the threshold of the alpine ski season.
She wears her national team cap a bit like a trucker might. Her long blonde hair dangles to the shoulders of a red-checked bush shirt.
She cuts a powerful, athletic figure.
Remme is 23 years old, learned to ski in her home town of Collingwood, Ont., at the Alpine Ski Club, and is arguably this country's brightest young talent set to emerge on the World Cup circuit.
She does not shy away from other people's hopes for what she might be able to accomplish in the near future or down the road.
"Honestly, I love expectations," she said, in a matter-of-fact sort of way."No one's expectations are as big as my own. I just like to strive for things that I think I can accomplish which other people think that maybe I can't. It's just deep inside.
"You must have this belief and trust in your ability and what you're capable of doing."
Late last season she recorded a first World Cup podium result at Crans-Montana, Switzerland in the Alpine Combined scoring a silver medal in a race which requires skill in both speed and technical skiing. She was also fifth at the world championships in Åre, Sweden, in the same event.
'She's a bulldog'
In addition Remme is a full-time, bio medical engineering student at the University of Utah and has scored straight A's in the classroom while leading her collegiate ski team to the NCAA championship two of the last three seasons in the process of being named an All-American.
"She's a bulldog for sure," her head coach at the University of Utah, J.J. Johnson, said over the phone, from the team's bootcamp.
"It takes a special person to manage everything she does, school, collegiate skiing, and traveling all over the place on the World Cup. She has balance, and, most importantly, doesn't like to lose at anything in life."
Skiing came naturally to Remme.
Growing up on the shores of Georgian Bay in Collingwood meant having Blue Mountain out the back door. It's a medium-sized hill, often swept by blustery winds and harsh snow conditions but it has a great history and has produced the likes of Canadian greats Steve Podborski and Todd Brooker — both of whom have conquered much bigger mountains, including the famed downhill at Kitzbühel, Austria.
"If you grow up in Collingwood, you're probably going to ski race," Remme chuckled. "We get so many runs in on the ice every day and the turnarounds are really quick and I think it hardens you up for sure. At least I have the foundation and I know how to ski on ice which is right in my line of work."
"I said to myself, I'm witnessing something I might never see again," said Jurg Gfeller, the founder of the National Ski Academy in Collingwood. Gfeller was speaking over the phone from Sunday River, Maine, where he was coaching skiers under the age of 16 from the academy at a training camp. Remme first came to his attention when she was 11 and he watched her develop during the five years she spent at the ski school.
"As an athlete she had no fear and lots of confidence," Gfeller recalled. "She was never afraid of trying and improving. Roni can be stubborn like good athletes are. Sometimes when you are stubborn you have to learn through experience and failure. She had to learn what disappointment is and lots of tears showed that. But it made her stronger."
The current athletic director at the National Ski Academy is Sami Piana of Italy who coached Remme as she made the jump to the national team.
"She runs when it's time to run if you understand what I mean," Piana said from Mont-Edouard, Que., on a break from a training camp.
"She is talented, driven, and prepared. She wants to face challenges. Put the package together and she is ready to complete the work to get the result. She'll be successful."
Early this winter, there have been indications that Remme might be on the precipice of a breakout season. In the slalom, her preferred discipline, Remme was a strong seventh in Killington, Vt., in a race won by the incomparable American Mikaela Shiffrin before a large and partisan crowd.
"The beginning of the season and being prepared enough to record your career best…that's a good sign," Piana acknowledged.
"I still think her shining discipline is the slalom," Gfeller agreed. "It's the no fear mindset. When you tell her go, she goes like nobody else. It's a package and if that package is developed she might be successful in the sport for a very long time."
WATCH | Roni Remme reaches first career World Cup podium:
From Utah, her university coach reckoned that Remme's talent is much more than a fleeting thing.
"It's not just window dressing," J.J. Johnson stressed.
"She's pulled from every direction. But she's smart in the classroom, she's got street smarts, and she's a competitor. She doesn't fall in love with a feeling but instead continues to follow a process to get better every day."
As she takes on the less familiar speed events on home snow at Lake Louise this weekend, Remme's dominant character trait is bound to come to the fore. She is apparently not hampered by trepidation of risk, danger, or her more accomplished rivals.
"Yup, that's the goal. I don't want to be intimidated by anybody or anything," she shrugged.
"All you can do is to understand that it's your own adventure. No-one else is out there to do anything for you or do anything to you. No matter whoever else is out there is irrelevant to me because I understand that when I get in the start hut this is my time."
Remme was been named Alpine Canada's female racer of the year at the outset of this 100th anniversary season.
In all that she says and does, she projects a subtle image which is not contrived.
After she's left the room you get the impression that Roni Remme may in fact be the real deal.