Steve Podborski

Podborski grew up in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills on Foxden Road near Global TV, made the Craigleith Ski Club near Collingwood famous by training there and went on to become arguably Canada’s finest male downhill skier. Steve Podborski was the most successful member of the daredevil Krazy Kanucks team that challenged the world’s best in the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s. He captured eight World Cup races and a bronze medal at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, thus becoming the first North American male to win an Olympic medal in the downhill. Two years later, his three downhill wins and consistent top placings enabled him to win the world downhill championship, the first time that a non-European had won this event. “It is hard to point at one thing as the highlight of my career as there were many different ways for a highlight to feel,” Podborski told this writer. “The most satisfaction was the World Cup title. I missed it by a few points the year before and then in 1982 I went out and won it. It was not a surprise, but it was tough to do and satisfying to achieve. As I am the only North American male to do so I am still delighted with it.” As Podborski kept reminiscing, he opened up to say that winning a race at the fabled Kitzbuhel course in Germany was a dream come true. Kitzbuhel is where he clinched the 1982 championship with a win. “The biggest highlight in many ways was winning Kitzbuhel,” he said. “Not only that, but no other non-European has won it more than once, and I was second twice, too. Crossing the line and looking back to see your name in first place in Kitzbuhel is the ultimate ski racing accomplishment. “The ’82 season was at its peak in Kitzbuhel. I won the first training run by a mile and then fell in a fluky way in the last training run. There was no one who was going to beat me that day. It was the point when I was simply the best I could be and that was a great time to do it.” But as much as the notoriety of a world championship was of more importance and meaning to Podborski, he thinks, though, that most people remember him most for his bronze-medal victory in smalltown New York, a race he didn’t feel comfortable about when he finished the race. “The Olympic medal was great and to this day is the most recognized of my accomplishments outside the skiing fraternity,” Podborski admitted. “I was the first North American male to win a downhill-skiing medal, and it was a tremendous step forward in my career. “The race run in Placid was not very good overall,” he remembered. “I was late in a gate on the upper part of the course and nearly fell on the flats lower down on the course so I had low expectations as I crossed the finish line. I was pretty happy with the result, though! “I remember being on the podium (I almost missed the ceremony due to a mix-up) and being so blissfully happy that I really cannot remember much but being happy! I pretty much reached the maximum happiness possible for a human in that moment.” Podborski retired after the 1983-84 season but not before winning at another fabled course, Garnish-Partenkirchen. In all, he proudly mentions that he made it to the podium 20 times in his career and finished in the top ten 44 times out of 89 World Cup starts. “I was a fearless skier because I knew deep inside myself that I was going to make it,” he said. “I trained very hard and skied a lot and worked on my gear and technique until I knew that I was going to not only make it, but be competitive every run.” These days, Podborski operates Pod Enterprises Ltd. in Whistler, B.C., where he lives with his wife Kathy and his two children and where he’s aiding the Vancouver/Whistler committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics.