Long road back for Canada's Semple

By TIM BAINES, QMI Agency

The road to the Olympics has been long, and costly, for alpine skier Ryan Semple.

Thankfully, he believed in himself and he had some financial support after being dumped from the national program.

The road to the Olympics was winding, with obstacles galore.

Semple injured his hip, then skied a full season with the injury. After having surgery, he “followed protocol” with rehab, but tweaked the injury again before the 2007 season.

“It started to go downhill from there,” says Semple. “I was in a lot of pain, and it came to the point where I said I couldn’t do it anymore. So I took two months off, looking for anything, alternative methods, to get better.”

To make a long story short, generally skiers are allowed to claim injury status, but he wound up getting cut from the national alpine team anyway.

“I guess they didn’t feel I was dedicated enough,” says Semple. “But I wasn’t ready to quit.”

He had surgery in early 2008 and, cut off from national team funding, decided to pay for his own season. He raced on the Nor-Am circuit, needing a Top 2 finish in any discipline to get back onto the World Cup scene.

He came through in the last race.

“I couldn’t pay for the season, I had to pay in two increments,” says Semple. “I wrote a letter and sent it out to contacts and it was unbelievable the support I got.”

The support came from companies like Canderel, Hill and Knowlton and Groupe Verdier. He also got a big chunk from CanFund.

“It was tough having to deal with all those outside things, but I was able to get through it,” says Semple. “November and December was tough for me. I hadn’t been to a World Cup for a year.

Then I took a more relaxed approach. I turned the page and it worked out for the better.”

While the 27-year-old Semple knew he had a good shot at making the national team, he went into a combined event in Kitzbuehel, Austria, knowing he needed to at least get to the bottom of the hill. He placed 11th, punching in his Olympic ticket with the result.

“I was somewhat anxious to get to the bottom of the hill,” he says. “It was a great feeling to get to the finish line.”

The genesis of Semple’s success began at the age of three, on the slopes of Mont Blanc, north of Montreal. At age six, he entered a local ski race and walked away with a cheque for $100 after recording the best time.

‘An Ottawa guy’

“I skied out of Tremblant, but I’m pretty much an Ottawa guy,” says Semple, who attended Lycee Claudel before graduating from Ashbury.

Semple continued his success, parlaying it into a spot on Canada’s national alpine team. He competed at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. But he desperately wanted to compete on his home country’s soil. He worked toward ensuring he would compete alongside the best in the world in Whistler, the site of the alpine events at this year’s Olympics. So what are the expectations?

“This is my ninth year on the national team,” says Semple. “In those types of environments, you try to embrace it, thrive on the energy.”

And you can bet there’ll be plenty of energy in the air.

His parents, Pam and Oakley, and his sister Tiffany and her husband Ben Mullen will be among the supporters on hand.

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