On board for medal quest

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

Brad Martin has a pretty good arm on him.

Just ask his coach, Dennis Bannock.

"His snowball is at about 80 miles per hour, so you have to watch yourself," Bannock said.

Bannock said he's taken a few of those in the head over the years as he's watched Martin become one of the top snowboarders on the planet.

Martin is competing in both the halfpipe and slopestyle competitions at this weekend's Burton Canadian Open at Canada Olympic Park.

There was a time when the 22-year-old boarder used his arm to hurl fastballs on the baseball diamond.

He suited up as a pitcher/outfielder with the Junior Canadian Thunderbirds and Ontario's Junior ball team.

But as his boarding career progressed, he had to make a choice.

"I played baseball for a long time," Martin said. "It was pretty competitive ball.

"Last year, I played softball. It was more of a beer league. It was pretty awesome.

"I had to focus on this fulltime."

Martin said when it came time to make a decision of which path to choose, it was an easy one.

"Snowboarding, for sure," he said. "I like everything about it -- hanging out with friends, being outside.

"And catching some sweet air."

He got his start on the snow at an early age. He was still in diapers when he strapped on the skis for the first time at 16 months of age.

He started snowboarding when he was eight.

It wasn't long before the Ancaster, Ont., product was considered a rising star.

Earlier this decade, Martin took a job at McDonald's to pay his way to various snowboarding competitions.

It turned out to be a more lucrative job than he ever imagined.

"It was pretty sweet," he said.

"I was working in the back, preparing all the burgers and entrees and from there, it turned out to be a sponsorship.

"They asked me how they could help me out because they knew how much I was travelling to try to get to the Olympics in '06."

Martin finished 16th at the Torino Games and is gunning for the podium in Vancouver.

But, first things first.

"This weekend, I want to be on the podium for either slopestyle or halfpipe," he said. "But I'm focusing more on halfpipe."

Bannock has coached Martin on THE national team for two years but the two have been friends for six years.

He said his athlete is a coach's dream.

"He's a great kid," Bannock said. "I really like where his heart is.

"He has a great go-for-it attitude. He's pretty much low maintenance -- the perfect kid to coach."

Bannock said Martin's go-for-broke attitude makes the Canuck a serious medal threat at the 2010 Games.

"For sure. He's already been to one Olympics, so he has the experience," Bannock said.

"It's his mind. Physically, he's a natural athlete. But (it comes down to) where his headspace is. He says 'I'm going to go for it.' "

Martin is fine-tuning some of his tricks, but already has one up his sleeve that sets him apart from the rest of the class.

"He's one of the only guys who has a 1260 grabbed, which is phenomenal," Bannock said.

"He definitely has some tricks he needs to work on, some backside spins and some cab spins.

"It's coming along, though. Every day is another step up."


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