Canadian skicross team pays tribute to Zoricic
Canadian ski cross team member David Duncan, of London, Ont., speaks to the media after the team unveiled a special tribute to teammate Nik Zoricic, who died after crashing at a World Cup in 2011, at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)
Published Monday, December 3, 2012 7:02PM EST
CALGARY -- Canada's skicross team unveiled new race suits at Canada Olympic Park on Monday that pay tribute to former teammate Nik Zoricic and his unique sense of style.
Zoricic died of head injuries sustained in a crash during a World Cup race in Grindelwald, Switzerland last March at the age of 29.
The new Descente suits feature race pants that look a pair of jeans to commemorate the time in 2009 when Zoricic wore blue jeans during a World Cup race.
"It's a cool tribute and it means a lot that we can kind of represent his style and his legacy on the hill all year long," said Zoricic's long-time teammate Brady Leman. "He'd love these suits. It was always something he wanted to look good on the hill. He was one of the big voices on the team making sure we had what we needed so this would be awesome for him."
The suits, which also include a red and white race jersey, will make their debut at the Audi FIS Nakiska Ski Cross World Cup, which runs from Dec. 6-8.
Ranked No. 2 in the world in skicross, Leman would like nothing more than to win the inaugural Nakiska event.
"Everything from here on out is for Nik," the Calgary native said. "He was one of my best friends and always will be. Everything that we can do is for him. I'm fortunate every day that I get to go out and ski as my job which is awesome. If I can have a good performance it will definitely be dedicated to Nik."
Defending overall World Cup champion Marielle Thompson, 20, of Whistler, B.C., would also like to have a strong start to her season at Nakiska from Dec. 6-8.
"It would amazing," said Thompson, while adding that the entire Canadian squad has found it hard to come to grips with Zoricic's passing. "It's been pretty emotional, but we've really come together as a team especially after the accident."
Veteran Canadian skier Dave Duncan of London, Ont., said the new race suits provide the team with a tangible way of remembering Zoricic.
"We want him with us," said Duncan, a close friend and teammate of Zoricic's for several years. "As long as he's not forgotten, he's always going to be with us."
Duncan has taken on the responsibility of being the team's athlete representative on safety issues at the international level.
"I feel very honoured to be taking the lead on behalf of the athletes with pushing safety in skicross and freestyle," he said. "Even if I retired today I'd still be very honoured to be moving forward with that goal. It's a double whammy to still be competing and doing that."
One of Duncan's main priorities is to make sure that all skicross courses are being designed properly.
"We just want better-designed courses that allow us to showcase our sport -- so lots of time in the air, some turns, enough room for passes, everything that just makes our sport excitable and fun to watch," he said.
Alpine Canada president Max Gartner agreed with Duncan that every necessary precaution has to be taken to make all skicross courses as safe as possible.
"We've done everything that we can to bring best practices here to Nakiska," Gartner said. "Lessons have been learned. It's as safe as it can be, keeping the sport as exciting as possible."
The race at Nakiska will be the first World Cup race since Zoricic's tragic accident.
"Unfortunately you have to move forward in the sport and the one way to honour somebody is by stepping your performance," Gartner said. "It's going to be a tough race, I think, for our team. It's a great opportunity to move on and do it in your home backyard in Canada where everybody feels good."