Penticton’s Andi Naude has barely taken off her Team Canada jacket since the official unveiling of the entire Olympic Canadian freestyle team.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Naude, who qualified after hitting the podium at a World Cup in Finland in early December. “It made it very real getting that jacket. I am definitely quite thrilled.”
It wasn’t too many years ago she sat at the base of Kristi’s Run at Apex, the moguls hill named after Summerland’s Kristi Richards who competed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, watching the national team members train before heading off to the Games. Last week she was the one executing flips and perfecting technical aspects as kids from the Apex Freestyle Team watched on.
“I think seeing Kristi Richards, a home-town girl, making it to the Olympics made is seem like it was an accomplishment I could go after. Seeing the athletes up close and training on our home turf made it seem like my dream could come true too,” said Naude.
It was long before that her love for freestyle started. Her family shared a duplex at Apex with friends from the U.S. — the Littles.
“I would spend hours outside with the kids. We would shovel snow, pack it with our hands, find pieces of wood to build our own little jumps — anything we could to make them. Jake Little really pushed me to start doing tricks. I think it was a 360 that was my first big one. I owe a lot of my support and inspiration to that family,” said Naude.
It has taken sweat and tears to get to this point — from her first trick on that hand packed jump, coming short on a bid for an Olympic spot in 2014, recovering from a concussion in 2017 and now sitting as the number two ranked freestyle skier in the world as she heads off for PyeongChang.
“I think this season has really been a breakthrough for me in consistency. Every (World Cup event) I have competed in I have made it to the Super Final and going into the Games ranked number two in the world and wearing that number two bib to the Games is like a dream come true,” said Naude.
Naude has skied this Olympic hill before at a World Cup event where she finished in third place.
“I remember my coaches telling me to stand at the top of the hill and soak it all in so it would be familiar. I am not superstitious but I do a lot of visualization before a run and have the words keep focused in my mind. That hill has been on my mind since,” said Naude.
At home in Penticton, packing for the trip to South Korea, Naude said she is ready to soak in every second of the Olympics. Even if it means some of it will be from a TV screen.
“I am not sure if I get to participate in the Opening Ceremony because our competition is so close to that day. I am hoping I can swing it, if not I will definitely tune in on TV and be cheering. My fingers are crossed that we can be there though. If not I will be at the Closing Ceremony to walk with Team Canada.”
Qualifications take place on Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. (PST) and Feb. 11 at 2:30 a.m. (PST) with the final that same day at 4 a.m. (PST).
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