While the snow is no longer flying, the memories remain fresh for Will Malisch.
Earlier this year, the HBA-Computer Science student won Canada’s first gold medal in men’s snowboard cross on the first day of competition at the 29th Winter Universiade that took place in the heart of Siberia in Krsnoyarsk, Russia.
Sponsored by the International University Sports Federation, the Universiade is considered the youth version of the Olympics.
Speed. Jumps. Drops. Even the occasional collision. Those are the realities of snowboard cross. Introduced at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, the sport pits four to six competitors against one another as they navigate their way through a fast, narrow course.
Admittedly, snowboard cross is not a sport that comes to mind when thinking of Ontario. Among athletes, the province is known as ‘On-terrible’ for the scarcity of hills and courses.
Despite the lack, however, some of the best snowboard athletes in the country come from the province, including Malisch, who grew up in Toronto and learned to ski at 3.
“We have to push ourselves harder to find the same adrenaline rush. We don’t have the big hills like they do out West, so we make up our own fun with harder jumps, obstacles and courses. The limitations actually give us the control we need for competition,” he said.
“Athletes out West are a different breed, more laid back. They’re usually full-time boarders and part-time students or employees. With me it’s the reverse. I’m a full-time student and part-time athlete. The Ivey program is intense – you’ve got to be disciplined and that discipline also translates in my training.”
Even though he only hit the snowboard course three times before his gold medal win, Malisch felt confident in his skills. “It was mine to win. I was on skis at 3; I’ve been competing on the board since I was 13; I have trained in facilities around the world.”
Malisch is taking summer courses in Computer Science as part of his dual degree. Interested in data analytics, he hopes his Business Analytics specialization will be an asset that he can leverage for a competitive advantage. In two years, when he graduates, he will also sharpen his ambition on the chance to represent Canada in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
“Determination drives success,” he said. “I have plenty of that.”