As family and friends continue to mourn the unexpected death of Brayden Kuroda of Penticton, a service and celebration of the 19-year-old’s life is now being planned.
It will take place March 30 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort and Conference Centre at 1:30 p.m.
News of the young man’s passing the night of Feb. 17 at his relative’s home in Airdrie, Alta. was announced the next day by Freestyle Canada. The cause of his death has not been released.
Brayden, who started skiing at the tender age of two under the guidance of his dad Kenni, a freestyle pioneer and champion, was in his first season as a member of the National NextGen Team.
Rob Kober, of Penticton, the former head coach of the national men’s mogul team and current head of the Alberta program, was out for dinner with Brayden and a group of other Canadians at a little Mexican restaurant in Park City, Utah just a few days before the young skier’s death.
Brayden was there to compete in the FIS World Cup competition but Kober said he had re-injured a previous shoulder injury in training and was unable to ski and likely done for the season. “Brayden was in a super mood, he was there with his national teammates and some of his former B.C. teammates, the mood was pretty light, pretty happy,” recalled Kober in a telephone interview from Calgary where the team was competing in a NorAm event. “He had his arm in a sling but if he was in pain he didn’t let on, I didn’t press him, I just tried to be supportive.
“He had been skiing great and he had a great run here at the World Cup in Calgary (Feb. 1) the weekend prior to going to Deer Valley and things were really looking up for him.”
In January, Brayden placed 34th in his very first World Cup in Mt. Tremblant, Que. and then 25th at the Calgary event, the third-highest placing Canadian and according to team officials, was well on his way to realizing his Olympic dream.
“He’s a great kid, he’s super well-liked. He’s very talented, very artistic. He was a great little photographer, happy outgoing really nice young man,” said Kober.
“Brayden touched a lot of people. The skiers all get to know each other and it’s definitely affecting everyone here in Calgary.
“Right now it’s pretty sombre. I know a lot of kids are struggling; for most of them it’s the first time they’ve gone through something like this, it’s really tough on Josh (his son Josh Kober, the current B.C. coach) he has to manage his team.”
Brayden was a member of the B.C. team last season under Josh.
Kober’s wife along with their daughter and her boyfriend who were Brayden’s former teammates, also drove out from Penticton to support the Kurodas.
“We had some time to spend with Kenni and Berva and I think that’s been huge for them, having their ski family around to give them a big hug,” said Rob.
Brayden died before just before the start of the Calgary NorAM competition and Rob said Freestyle Canada through various Canadian Sports Institutes was particularly good in arranging the necessary counselling.
He also had no doubt members of the Canadian team would be leaving it all on the line in Brayden’s memory when they left the starting gate, which proved to be true.
Olympic gold medalist Mikaël Kingsbury posted this on his Facebook page after his first event Feb. 22 in Tazawako, Japan:
“Today, my teammates and I were all skiing for Brayden Kuroda, his family and friends. Brayden, my (gold medal emoji) and this podium with my buddy Laurent Dumais are for you (heart emoji)”
He also posted a photo of himself on the podium with the gold medal and his hands out, written on his gloves: “I SKI for BRAYDEN.”
The Penticton skier’s love affair with air began at an early age at Apex Mountain Resort where he was mentored by his dad, who coached the mountain’s competitive team for years.
Brayden then went on to ski for the B.C. team and then on to the national squad.
In addition to his skills on the ski hills Brayden was remembered by Freestyle Canada officials as having the “heart of an entrepreneur” finding unique ways to fund his passion on the slopes.
And despite missing more than half his classes, he finished his Grade 12 year with an 87 per cent grade.
With dreams of becoming a surgeon — he and his mother, a registered nurse often talked medicine — Brayden was accepted directly into the University of Calgary’s Biomedical Science Honors Program but deferred so he could pursue his skiing career.
Penticton MLA Dan Ashton is a family friend, having known Kenni and Berva for most of his life and said his heart went out to the couple when he heard the news of Brayden’s passing.
“It’s devastating, just devastating,” said Ashton. “He was the nicest, the nicest boy you could meet, just a personable young man with a smile that was so infectious.”
Those attending the March 30 service are asked to bring their stories, memories and photos of Brayden to leave with the family.
In his published obituary, his cousin Leanne Sonnenberg wrote: “Brayden will be the only angel in heaven without wings …he already knew how to fly.”