The community of Whistler has stepped up to help send one of its own to the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.
A fundraising event at the Longhorn Saloon and Grill last Wednesday raised close to $10,000 to help send snowboarder Crispin Lipscomb to the Games just days after he qualified.
The event included a silent auction that raised $3,800 with items donated from local businesses, as well as large donations from individual companies like Walsh Restorations, which offered up $5,000.
“That amount is the same amount I started my business with,” said owner Mike Walsh, who donated with business partner Kuldip Kang. “The story was told to me that he has supported himself on all his training and I was just amazed. I was blown away by it. We were told he needed $10,000 and made a commitment to give half of that. Whistler has always backed us and we decided to back him.”
Lipscomb achieved his goal of going to the Games against the odds when he was named to the Canadian Olympic snowboard team last Tuesday — but that was only the halfway mark in his journey to Sochi.
The 34-year-old halfpipe rider managed to earn a spot on the team after learning he wouldn’t be able to attend the Winter Games as a coach for Katie Tsuyuki because she didn’t hold national team status.
“Katie turned to (Canada Snowboard) and said, ‘Fine, I’ll get my coach to get his own credentials as athlete,’” Lipscomb said. “She encouraged me, and her family was really supportive. They were funding her Olympic efforts and said, ‘OK, get on that.’”
Although he proved he had the chops to make it to the Games, coming up with the funds was another obstacle. Last Wednesday, Lipscomb turned to the community for support with a fundraiser where he received an outpouring of donations.
“Going in, I was nervous anyone would show up,” he said. “I’ve been so focused on snowboarding the whole season I didn’t know how much awareness we had going in. We only announced the fundraiser event 48 hours before, and we only confirmed my spot 36 hours before the event, so I was nervous. But the community was so supportive and the business owners donated so much of their time and services.”
Some local sports stars, including snowboarder Neil Connolly, mountain biker Lisa Mason and fellow Olympic snowboarder Michael Michalchuk, also attended to pose for photos and chat with fans.
“Everyone was speaking about how proud they were of me and my efforts and achievement,” Lipscomb said. “I think that’s because everyone’s been such a close part of this story. People in the crowd were long-time friends, or people I’ve coached, or Whistler Blackcomb instructors whose own snowboarders I’ve affected positively and businesses I’ve been a customer of for so long.”
Katrina Frew, general manager at Longhorn, said the event was “massively successful” and the atmosphere was similar to that of the 2010 Olympics in Whistler.
“It’s one thing to have all the stress and pressure of becoming an Olympic athlete, but the fact that he depended on the community to get him there, and the community backed him more than 100 per cent was overwhelming and raised the spirits so high,” she said. “The vibe was incredible. It was similar to the Olympic spirit.”
Lipscomb said he’s worked hard to share his story with the community over the years, which could account for some of the support. Despite placing 11th in the Torino Olympics back in 2006, he narrowly missed qualifying for the 2010 Games after the tragic death of his best friend, Anthony Crute, sent his life into a tailspin. Dreams dashed, he decided to retire.
Now, with age, wisdom and Buddhist philosophy behind him, Lipscomb said he plans to approach this competition much differently than he did in 2006. “I’m looking forward to coming back and being a lot more calm,” he said. “With the experience of 2006, I hope to keep it in perspective — not get caught up in the buzz and media element of it. I want to help mentor my fellow snowboard team, who are a few young riders, to keep them focused to the end of their event. In Torino, it was quite an easy place to be a tourist and to wander around outside the Olympic zones, but this time, I’m going to stay nice and safe and keep it a simple visit to do the job, which is to deliver the very best results that I can. And that will be my focus.”
If you’d like to donate, Lipscomb has an ongoing Indiegogo site where friends and fans can offer support. It will be running in hopes of raising money for unforeseen costs until Feb. 21.