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Brady Leman focused on resuming quest for ski cross overall title

Calgary's Brady Leman enters this weekend's ski cross event at Nakiska in Alberta ranked eighth in the world and determined to get in the mix for a Crystal Globe. "It would be nice to say I'm the best in the world. That's what's driving me now."

'That's what’s driving me now,' says 2018 Canadian Olympic champ of Crystal Globe

Brady Leman of Calgary, pictured after winning bronze in Austria on Dec. 14 for his 27th World Cup medal, is looking forward to getting back in the mix for an overall season title. The 33-year-old is competing this weekend at Nakiska in Alberta. (Laurent Salino/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

If Brady Leman hopes to achieve a goal of winning an overall World Cup title, he must turn around his ski cross season starting this weekend at Nakiska.

The Calgarian used the Christmas break to refocus and reflect on a season of wide-ranging results that has seen Leman finish as high as third and as low as 18th within a week in December.

"It wasn't the start to the season that I was looking for, but it was close," Leman told CBC Sports, adding he's in good health. "A few bad breaks and a few key mistakes were the difference between competing for top 10s and competing for medals."

The 33-year-old placed sixth and 12th on consecutive days in December to open the 2019-20 season at Val Thorens, France. He followed with his 27th World Cup podium a week later before falling well short at the next two World Cup stops in Switzerland (Arosa) and Italy (Innichen).

With six events remaining, Leman enters the lone Canadian stop of the World Cup season this weekend in Kananaskis, Alta., ranked eighth in the world with 177 points, 291 in arrears of Toronto's Kevin Drury, who tops the standings with 396 points.

Leman, who prefers faster courses with bigger jumps, could get his wish at Nakiska (CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET on Saturday) and at a subsequent event Jan. 25-26 at Idre Fjäll in Sweden.

LISTEN | Brady Leman finds peace amid the mayhem

Reigning Olympic Ski Cross Champion and multiple X-game and world cup medallist, Brady Leman is not one to cut corners in the gym. The man is a conditioned brick of muscle. But for such a physical specimen - Leman is a surprisingly devoted student of the mental game. Against the mayhem and injury of competition, Leman works at mindfulness, visualization, and meditation, and he is more convinced all the time that psychological training is what's driving his world-beating results. The literal calm amid the storm is what it's all about. Host Anastasia Bucsis gives Leman the conversational room to expand on his thinking about best mental practises for competitors. After that, she reminisces with her fellow Calgarian, about all the ways their home city supported developing winter athletes. 26:48

For years, the 2018 Olympic gold medallist stopped short of setting a pre-season goal to win a Crystal Globe as overall season champion.

Distracted

He didn't like to look that far ahead, and when he was in a position to make a charge for top spot, Leman would get distracted and constantly glance at the standings to see how he stacked up to the competition.

"If you're worried about the overall all the time, you're not focusing race to race and that's had a negative effect on me in the past," he said.

Some of the courses were quite a bit easier last year than what I'm used to and I kind of checked out.— Canadian ski cross racer Brady Leman

But that didn't stop Leman from changing his outlook and stating in November ahead of his 11th World Cup campaign that he wanted to win a Crystal Globe.

"It's been a focus for a long time but a hard goal to set," he said. "I used to say I want to be in contention for the overall, but I want to win one now, and I know I can."

In recent years, Leman has threatened to become the first Canadian male to win a Crystal Globe, finishing third in 2015-16, second the following campaign and fourth last season. But focusing on things out of his control such as how the courses were designed and their difficulty level was the former alpine racer's downfall.

Setting new goals

"Some of the courses were quite a bit easier last year than what I'm used to and I kind of checked out," he said. "But it's not my job to design the race course. My job is to ski fast on it."

Coming off his Winter Games success in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Leman struggled to find the same motivation and had zero World Cup medals to show for the 2017-18 season.

"You'll always be more emotionally invested in the big events like the world championships and Olympics," he said. "It's about making sure the focus and attention to detail is the same no matter where the event is."

Before the 2018-19 campaign, the 2016 X Games champion was challenged to set new goals and make sure they were meaningful from more than an accomplishment standpoint.

WATCH | Leman looks back at winning Olympic gold:

Canadian Brady Leman looks back at his gold medal winning ski cross race from the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. 2:01
With his Olympic gold lifting the weight of past disappointments off his shoulders — he broke a leg at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and finished fourth in 2014 at Sochi, Russia — Leman felt he had more freedom to perform after having success "on the big days that matter," he told Brenda Irving of CBC Sports in December 2018.

The next month, Leman earned his second victory in the past three years at Blue Mountain near Collingwood, Ont. He won silver at the world championships in early February at Solitude, Utah, before closing out the month with his third medal of the season, a bronze in Sunny Valley, Russia.

At the final World Cup event on March 17 in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, he was second to Jean-Frederic Chapuis of France.

"Last year kind of felt like a bounce-back year," Leman said, "even though I was a little bit under motivated at various points and was getting distracted by things outside of my control like courses and travel.

"It was a reminder that I did have what it takes to be ranked world No. 1. It would be really nice to say, at one point in time, that I'm the best in the world. That's what's driving me now."

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Faceoff.com. Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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