U of C snowboarders compete at Univesiade Games in Turkey

Getting the chance to compete at games, whether they are provincial, national or international, is always an amazing opportunity for athletes. Seven U of C students are at the 2011 Universiade Games — an international sporting event for athletes attending university — in Erzurum, Turkey. Competition began on Jan. 27 and will conclude on Feb. 6. Rob Ritchie and Taylor Ronsky competed in the snowboard cross event on Jan. 29 and Jan. 30.

Snowboard cross is a relatively new sport based on motorcross where athletes race down an inclined course. To qualify for the final heats athletes compete in two qualification runs from which their best time was taken. After qualifying, four competitors race head to head with the first two across the line advancing to the next round.

Both Ritchie and Ronsky placed well in the qualifying runs in Turkey and advanced ranked 12 and 14 respectively. Both were successful in their round of 32 heats and then were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

“There’s 44 guys and I qualified twelfth. Before we saw who was actually competing we thought it would be a cake walk,” said Ritchie. “It turns out a bunch of people came who do the World Cup circuit and stuff from Germany and Russia and Italy, so there’s some good competition here.”

Ronsky said the track was good given the amount of snow they have to work with.

“It’s kind of simple because they don’t have a lot of snow here right now,” said Ritchie. “They brought in a Swedish guy who builds the World Cup tracks to do it, so it’s pretty good. It’s pretty mellow compared to what we usually ride in the States and in Canada, but it’s still a good course.”

Ritchie said he has enjoyed exploring, experiencing the Games and encounters with Turkish culture.

“It is amazing,” said Ritchie. “It’s like being at the Olympics. There’s people from all over the world that are top athletes. Turkey’s an insane country compared to us. Everything is just abnormal compared to a North American so it’s pretty cool just to be here.”

“All of the people here have been extremely helpful, extremely kind,” said Ronsky. “It’s almost like you’re a celebrity here. A lot of work has been put into it and it shows.”

Ritchie is a second-year geophysics major and Ronsky is in his second-year of political science.

Ronsky will be going to the Canada Winter Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia from Feb. 11-27.

“It’s good to compare myself with other athletes who have been competing for a long time,” said Ronsky.

Ritchie trains at the Ski Area and Evolve Ski and Snowboard Cross club in Lake Louise. Since snowboard cross is such a new sport there is limited infrastructure and fewer competitions than in sports like downhill skiing said Ritchie.

“I kind of started off snowboard racing doing [giant slalom] and slalom and then after a while that got really, really boring so I wanted to just do something really, really fun and I enjoy this,” said Ritchie. “They’re the only place in, I think, western Canada with an actual permanent boarder cross track right now.”

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