Photo by Brian Towie/Torontoist.
Michael Lambert wants to dispel the myth of the “yo-dog.”
The 2010 Olympic torchbearer and snowboarding hopeful would like to point out that the lifestyle of those who zip down snowy slopes, uber-cool to outsiders though it may be, isn’t all fun and games. It’s certainly not about hitting the bong, hitting the sheets with snow bunnies, and dropping such terms as “dude, sick!”
“That surrounds the half-piper freestyle guys,” says the Cabbagetown native, 23. “It’s great for raising awareness of the sport, which we need, but with that you’ve got people thinking that they’re jokes. I mean, most of them are serious athletes, but there are a lot of those ‘yo-dogs’ out there and we racers get lumped in with them. Once people get to know me, they say, ‘I thought snowboarders were totally different.’”
MTV’s Over The Bolts, a show on which Lambert stars, sheds light on his point. The reality series chronicles the training, trials, and tribulations of the top snowboarders in the country as they vie for eighteen spots on Canada’s Olympic team.
The physicality of such a feat doesn’t present a problem to Lambert; training 220 days a year on snow at various spots across the country and sailing at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in the off-season keeps him in great shape. The challenge, he claims, is psychological. Meeting a course’s challenges requires split-second adaptation to the conditions at hand.
“It’s a balance between trying to go as straight as possible, but not fighting gravity, not fighting the hill,” he says. “You can memorize a course, but you have to adjust anyway because conditions will change throughout the day doing your ten runs; whether or not you have to get risky if you’re behind someone, or not risky if you’re in front. It’s more about feeling it, touching it.”
The sport calls for tremendous focus and mental discipline, something Lambert has admitted to wrestling with in the past due to a nagging tendency to over-think.
“I went through that for years,” he says. “You get distracted; you can’t focus. I’ve been meditating a lot and it really helps. Now when something gets into my head, I know I can’t get rid of it, but at least I know how to accept it, refocus, and get back into the moment. Everyone has their own system. For me, I script it. I know down to the second what I’m going to be doing up until my run.”
To secure a spot on the Olympic team, Lambert needs two top-five results on the current FIS Snowboard World Cup tour, though he says he may indeed make the team anyway even if that doesn’t happen (Lambert recently came fifteenth in the parallel giant slalom category at a tourney in Kreichsberg, Austria, and previously came second to Jasey Jay Anderson at a December event in Telluride, Colorado). It’s quite a prospect for the native of a town not exactly known for its snowboarding prowess.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he says. “You get to represent your country, and boost the profile of the sport.”