By Roy Zavorsky
When Aimee Newton made the National Snowboard Alpine team this spring, she knew she would have to forego her fifth year as a Dino field hockey player.
A competitive skier for most of her life, Newton called it quits in 1996 to pursue an education rather than fight the politics of sport at the national level.
"It came to the point where my passion turned into a job, and jobs can become extremely political when the stakes are high," confessed the Rossland, B.C. native.
In 1999, Newton got the itch to compete again. As a result, she tra-nsformed from a weekend warrior to serious snowboarder overnight. After a year of training Newton joined the Nakiska snowboard team in the fall of 2000 and began to rack up Federation Internationale de Ski points at an amazing rate. She also earned $1,000 for her second place finish at a race in Lake Tahoe, California. With yet another second place at nationals that April, she earned enough points in only one season to gain a spot on the 2001 national team.
"With that kind of learning curve Aimee should be looking at the Olympics in February," said her ex-Nakiska coach Craig Smith.
So far, no Canadian female has qualified for the Olympics in the alpine events but Newton believes the goal is attainable. She only requires two finishes in the top 16 of a World Cup event to qualify. Despite a knee injury which forced her to miss a national training camp in Innsbruck, Austria this past October, Newton finished seventh in her first major competition of the year at Colorado’s Copper Mountain Nov. 10-11.
On Dec. 9 and 16, Newton heads to Whistler, B.C. and Mount St. Anne, Quebec, respectively for her first two of four World Cup events before the 2002 Winter Games.
Newton is in the final semester of her Kinesiology degree and feels that she owes a great deal of her current success to the Dino experience and her field hockey teammates.
"It taught me how to enjoy sports again at a competitive level," she said. "The past four years as a Dino gave me the time to recuperate from burning out as a skier and energized me with team spirit."
As far as the future of Canadian Alpine Snowboarding is concerned, Newton hopes to see increased funding for the event. At an estimated budget of $23,250 per season, she has pushed her financial resources to the limit and even used her saved student loans to subsidize her training.
For the 2001/02 season, the Canadian Snowboard Team is not carded. Given the fact that high performance racing is not as glamorous or marketable as the freestyle events, corporate sponsorship can only carry an athlete so far. Currently sponsored by Board Dökter and Nike, Newton said she would like to see the federal government step in with some additional resources.
"I’d like to see Canadian athletes not just making the Olympics but winning medals," she said. "There is a correlation between financing and keeping the medals coming in several years after an event."
As Newton finishes up her degree and strives for Salt Lake City, she hopes her quest for the Olympics will be as memorable as the four years she had as a Dino.