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Vancouver Province article on Ross

Blog by | February 12th, 2008

Ross lives with controversy

Rebagliati says medal woes opened a lot of doors

Damian Inwood, The Province

Published: Friday, February 08, 2008

It's been exactly a decade since Ross Rebagliati's Olympic gold medal threw him on to front pages around the globe.

Tonight, in Kelowna, the 36-year-old snowboarder will meet with friends, "tip back a couple of cold ones" and remember that day in Nagano, Japan.

The former Whistler athlete remains philosophical about the "double-edged sword" brought by being stripped of his medal after testing positive for traces of marijuana. He was reinstated after arguing that he'd ingested second-hand smoke.

"It's been quite the experience and the 15 minutes of fame everyone talks about kind of stretched itself out a little longer," he chuckled yesterday.

On the one hand, he was nicknamed by Tonight Show host Jay Leno as "Nickel-bag-liati." On the other, the U.S. placed him on its "no-fly" list until last year, which was "devastating" to his career.

Rebagliati still has a home in Whistler but has moved to Kelowna with wife Alexandra after dropping plans for a 2010 Olympic comeback. He said he was offered a job at Kelowna Mountain, a new private ski resort, helping plan the terrain park, chairlifts and snowmaking machines.

"I thought I'd take that position and concentrate more on my future and my family," he said. "When you come out of 10 years of snowboard racing, you don't have the scholarships for university or dental plans or anything."

While it wouldn't have been his first choice, Rebagliati said he's tried to use the controversy to his advantage, such as setting up snowboard camps in Italy.

"I've tried to maintain a sporting image and a healthy lifestyle, so it definitely brought some things along with it that I never wanted," he said. "On the other hand, it brought along a lot of things I could have never imagined and opened a lot of doors for me."