Super-G World Champion, 2017. Silver medalist, downhill at the same World Championships at St. Moritz. Five World Cup wins and a total of 25 podium appearances, surpassing legendary Crazy Canuck, Steve Podborski. One Crystal Globe, the first in 28 years for a Canadian skier. Erik Guay is without a doubt one of the greatest Canadian athletes of all time. We sat down with him in his Mont-Tremblant home.
The list of Erik Guay’s remarkable achievements is long. Very long. But last winter was when he really touched us all. After missing a jump and taking a terrible fall at a speed estimated at 110-120 km/h—the kind of fall where spectators cry out in horror, and think immediately of the months it will take for the athlete to heal physically and mentally—Guay was back in competition barely a week later to win the super-G at the World Championships. It was half science fiction and half fairy tale!
HIS GREATEST PRIDE
When asked which makes him proudest––being the most decorated alpine skier in Canadian history, his two World Championships (the first was in the downhill in 2011), or his Crystal Globe, Guay replies, “The thing that really blows me away is the longevity of my career at the highest level of competition.”
“ STORMS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BUILD STRONG ROOTS THAN FINE WEATHER . ” — GILLES VIGNEAULT
Let’s remember that Guay is competing against the best in the world, in a sport where victories are measured in hundredths of a second. And yet, he has overcome 4 years of intense pain, undergoing 6 knee surgeries between the ages of 28 and 32. The level of challenge, of frustration, resilience, determination and fighting spirit is remarkable. And passion! Each fall is a slow climb back up. Recovery means getting back to a place where you can push yourself in every way, testing the human body’s limits of endurance, in speed, in turns, in jumps, in G force. And you have to do it all without losing an ounce of motivation.
Considering all of Erik Guay’s obstacles, it’s easier to understand why career longevity is his proudest accomplishment. In fact, his experience brings Gilles Vigneault’s lyrics to life. At age 35, Érik Guay became the oldest ever alpine skiing World Champion with his super-G win. He also became the fourth man ever to win the title in two separate championships, having won the downhill in 2011 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
“I had three main objectives when I became a competitive skier,” he says. “To become World Champion, to win a Crystal Globe in the super-G, and to win an Olympic medal. I’ve done the first two; now I have to tackle the third.” Guay has been less successful at the Olympics: his best performance was a fourth-place finish in the super-G in Turin, in 2006. “In the eyes of the media and the public, there’s often nothing more prestigious than the Olympic Games,” he adds. “But for me, an Olympic medal is no more important than my other 2 goals.” He’ll get another chance to make his dream come true at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“ HAVING A FAMILY REALLY HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANT VALUES IN LIFE . ”
Before he retires, Guay also hopes to win a race at Kitzbühel, Austria. In his words, “There’s nothing more meaningful for any skier than a win on that legendary mountain.” Winning at Kitzbühel is like winning the Stanley Cup in Montreal. Note that Guay has already won a silver medal there, earning him a solid reputation in the Austrian Alps. He can be proud just to have been on the podium.
So much for the superman. Off the slopes, Erik Guay is simply a fine man. He shines most when he speaks about his family. Erik and his wife, Karen, have just welcomed a fourth daughter to the world. Born in September, Maude is little sister to Logann, 8, Leni, 5, and Marlo, 3. “Having a family really helps you understand the important values in life,” says Guay.
“As passionate as I am about my sport and my career, it takes second place once you experience love and children. I’m always excited to go off to race, but I’m equally thrilled every time I come home.” Guay adds, “When your goal is to be a father who spends quality time with his family, it removes some of the unnecessary pressure you place on your work. My children keep my thinking fresh, they help me step back a bit and have some fun. My family has a lot to do with my success. Karen is brave and strong. I’m often gone for a month, sometimes 6 weeks. It can’t be easy, but she does a remarkable job.” And when he’s there, Erik is really there. Like all devoted parents, he spends a lot of time playing chauffeur, driving Logann, Leni and Marlo to gymnastics, dance class and ski lessons.
Now that they have 4 children, you might think it reasonable for Karen to ask Erik to consider retiring, especially given all the surgeries and the fall last winter, which could have been much more serious. But it never comes up. “Nobody, not Karen, nor my parents, has ever made the slightest comment, or suggested it might be time to move on to something else,” he says.
Since 2008, Erik Guay has also served as ambassador for Tremblant, where it all began for him. “I’m not just a skier; I’m an all-round outdoor enthusiast. And we have everything here: forests, rivers and mountains, and all the activities, festivals and events they make possible. We truly have it all. I just love living here” he concludes.
We wish Erik the best next February. Whatever happens, we know he will always be a consummate champion, a great dad and a fine human being.