My Vancouver – Then & Now: Steve Podborski

Steve Podborski: Chef de Mission 2014 Sochi Winter Games | Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee

Steve Podborski: Chef de Mission 2014 Sochi Winter Games | Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee

My Vancouver Then & Now Series – Introduction

As one of the most desirable cities in the world in which to live, Vancouver has played a pivotal role in the destinies of many athletes, performers and creative minds.  Whether as a stepping stone at the beginning of their long careers (Academy Award –winner Jim Erickson); a safe harbour for immigrants to start again (Prima Ballerina, Chan Hon Goh ) or reaching the pinnacle of their life’s work here ( NHL’s ‘Captain Canuck’, Trevor Linden, ) the celebrated personalities of this new Inside Vancouver Series by Laura Goldstein, all have one thing in common:  MY VANCOUVER THEN & NOW is immeasurably in their hearts.

The world was watching in 1980. Careening down a blistering course at 145 kilometers per hour in bone chilling weather with degrading visibility, Steve Podborski was one of the five Crazy Canucks on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team (along with Dave Murray, Ken Read, Dave Irwin and Jim Hunter), so dubbed by European media for their reputation for taking unprecedented risks. ‘Pod’ was the first North American male to win an Olympic medal in downhill skiing, bringing home bronze in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid and 8 individual World Cup wins.

“I remember visiting (the late) Dave Murray out here when we were practicing for World Cup and he said ‘ just tell everyone who asks you about Vancouver that it rains all the time, because it’s so amazing, we don’t want anyone else to move out here!’”

Podborski, who would later became the Assistant Chef de Mission for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, remembers the excitement of being part of that original bid for the Vancouver Olympics, announced in Prague, July 3, 2003:

“Standing with Prime Minister Chrétien, bid president, John Furlong, Wayne Gretzky, Premier Gordon Campbell and many other supporters in Prague when the IOC President Jacques Rogge announced that Vancouver had been selected to host the 2010 Winter Games, the crowd just exploded here and at home at the live broadcast at GM Place in Vancouver!” (now Rogers Arena .)

“Then, just before the 21st Olympic Winter Games opened, another memorable moment for me was during the Olympic Torch passing in Whistler, just prior to its arrival to light the cauldron in Vancouver, when Free-Style Skiing Champion Julia Murray (and Dave’s daughter) passed the baton to me. Dave would have been so proud.”

After 20 years in Whistler, Podborski and family have lived in Vancouver’s Fairview Slopes for five years, overlooking Granville Island with views all the way to Olympic Village. Today, at 55, he’s still buff but a little less of a daredevil. Appointed Chef de Mission for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Games in Russia, his duties will include spokesperson for Canadian athletes at the Games, and will work with the COC in preparing them for the Olympic environment.

When not travelling, Podborski loves spending time with his family “mountain biking on the Endowment Lands near UBC, cruising through Steveston, visiting Iona Beach and grabbing a burger at Romers Burger Bar in Kits –the best burgers in the city!”

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