Brady Leman is living proof of what can be achieved with persistence and perseverance. His career has seen many highs and lows. But last year he ascended Mount Olympus. His medal closet is adorned with a gold medal from the PyeongChang Olympic Games. But Brady is not just a skier, he is a true Canadian who knows how to enjoy all the gifts of mother nature. He is also an avid mountain biker and keen fisherman.
Brady Leman - Olympic gold medalist, how does that sound?
Pretty amazing! I still get a smile each time I hear it. I had a lot of success on the World Cup before winning the Olympics in 2018, it still amazes me a little bit that it actually happened.
Your Olympic story had quite some ups and downs. Due to injury you were forced to quit the Olympics on your home soil in Vancouver, in Sochi four years later you finished right behind the medals on the fourth place and then it all paid off in Pyeongchang?
Yea it was quite the journey through my three different Olympic results. Each time I got a little bit closer, and a little more of a taste of what it was like to compete on the olympic stage. I feel like I really needed those set backs in both Vancouver and Sochi to put me in the right head space to succeed in PyeongChang. I knew that my focus had to be more on the experience and the process versus focusing just on bringing home a medal. It was a hard way to learn that lesson but it paid off in the end.
You are also the winner of the legendary X-games. Is there any way you compare those two acheivements?
X games started the sport of ski cross. Before there was a World Cup, a World Championship or an Olympic Games for Ski Cross, there was the X Games. It was the first time I saw a ski cross race on TV, it was totally nuts and it looked so freaking cool! It was the first big event I dreamt of winning in this sport, so I hold my X Games title in very high regard still.
You were only two years old when Alberto Tomba won two Olympic gold medals in Calgary, Alberta - the town where you were born. Were you already skiing at that young age?
My parents tell me I was on skis by the end of that winter, but that I went up in one of those backpacks that carries kids to watch the Olympic events in Calgary in 88.
Famous canadian poet Leonard Cohen wrote these famous words: "I was born like this I had no choice I was born with the golden voice". Could you say something like this for yourself and skiing?
For sure, both of my parents worked in the ski industry, my mom at two small ski hills in Calgary, and my Dad as a race coach. I sort of grew up at the hill, I was really lucky in that sense. They never forced me into skiing or anything, it was just kind of always there. I grew to love it and as a kid its all I remember thinking about.
Do you remember the defining moment in your life when you knew you wanted to become a skier?
I don't have one big moment in my memory where I knew I wanted to be a professional skier, it was a dream that kind of evolved over several years. I always just loved skiing, and racing, and pushing my limits with my friends. When I was younger I was more about who could do the biggest air or who was the first to land a backflip, and then as I got older that competitiveness turned to racing and then eventually to ski cross. As I moved up the ranks at each level I was exposed to a whole new level of training, of thinking and a much more professional approach to skiing. As I did this, I started to really love that side of the sport, what goes on behind the scenes, working all year every day towards getting better and faster on the hill, and that was what made me want to stick with it.
Did you have any rolemodels as a kid and youngster?
My role models as a kid were Thomas Grandi and John Kucera. They are both Canadian ski racers who come from my home province of Alberta. I grew up watching them train and race and they both went on to be world class alpine skiers, Thomas winning two World Cup GS races and John having a ton of success on the speed side, highlighted with a Downhill World Championship.
If I am not mistaken you came into ski cross from alpine skiing. Which were your alpine disciplines and how did you decide for the transition into ski cross?
I was really a 4 event skier in alpine, but I always saw myself as more of a speed and GS guy. But while I was racing, I always had a love for being in the air, and I spent all of my free time in the terrain park or free skiing off piste. I actually got pretty good in the park, and would go in local contests for big air, slope style and halfpipe and I actually did pretty well. So once ski cross became an Olympic sport it seemed like the perfect fit for me.
If you have only five words to describe ski cross which ones would you choose?
Exciting, Fast, Thrilling, adrenaline, fun.
How often do you go skiing just for yourself, with your girlfirend or friends?
As often as I can but these days that doesn’t happen as much as I would like. I usually get a few days in the spring to ski with Catherine (my girlfriend) or with my buddies. I still love free skiing and touring into the backcountry, its so nice to get back to the sport that i love without the stress of racing.
Any favourite spots?
My favourite place to ski in the world is still at home at Lake Louise.
Injuries had a pretty important role in your career. How do you manage to cope with them and to get the motivation when you have to collect yourself for the comeback?
For me with injuries it has always come down to a really cut and dry approach. Ok this is what happened I broke my leg or my shoulder or whatever it was, what do I need to do to make it better? Will I still be able to be fast once I am all healed up? I was always able to answer these questions, often with lots of help from those around me, but it made it easier to come back knowing how I would do it and that I could still be fast once I was all healed up.
In Canada you could feel really strong connection to nature basically on every step. What is your personal attitude towards nature and outdoors?
I try my best to respect our environment and nature, its tough as I live a pretty crazy life travelling a lot and racing all over the place. I do what I can to help our planet and environment at home. I am an obsessive recycler and composter, and I ride my bike as much as I can at home. It’s not much but I really believe that if everyone could change a few small habits it could have a huge effect on our planet.
Your outdoor passions are very obvious also on your instagram profile. Are there any parallels between skiing, mountain biking and flyfishing?
With biking, anytime you are looking ahead and reacting at speed, it has a big relation to skiing. Some of the feelings are also the same in banked corners and turns and also over jumps. It’s also a good way to get a bit of a rush in the off season. As far as the fishing goes, not much I can attribute to skiing there!
The calmness of flyfishing seems to be quite a contrast to the action of skiing and mountain biking?
Fishing for me is a passion that I picked up from my dad. It is something we still do together, and I just love the quiet and calmness of being on the water.
Could you speak a little bit about mountain biking which is also a pure canadian obsession. What kind of riding do you prefer and where do you go for a ride?
For me I love mostly enduro style riding. Almost everything I ride is pedal access, but I suffer on the ascent to get the fun and rush of the downhills. My favourite riding zones are all in western Canada. Around Calgary, my hometown Moose mountain is a blast. The trails there are pretty flowy and fun, much like a ski cross! Further west Squamish and north Vancouver have some amazing trails and the riding on the west coast is some of the most technical and challenging anywhere in the world.
A lot of skiers say that the feeling of carving on skis and on the mountain bike have some similarities. What is your view?
They definitely have some similar feels, the way you have to keep your pressure on the downhill side of the turn, the feeling of driving the bike through a turn is pretty similar to finishing a turn on your skis as well. But I don't see myself as a very good bike rider so I may be a little bit off with this stuff!
How do you like summertime? Do you enjoy it or you are counting down the days when the new winter will begin?
Usually by the time summer rolls around I am ready for a break from my skis. I really look forward to getting some time on the bike and out on the water or the golf course. But once fall rolls around and the temperature starts to drop I can't wait to get back in the start gate.
The Elan Team seems almost like a Canadian National Team. How do you like working with Blaž and the guys who pay the attention that your skis are always well prepared and fast?
The relationship with Elan and Team Canada has been an amazing one over the past few years. At first, Elan was a smaller company with not as much of a presence in ski cross. They were willing to offer a lot of support to a few guys on our team and in the early days of the relationship Blaž was great working with us and our service guys to make sure we had everything that we needed and that the skis were fast on the hill. We had some good success and the program grew really quickly, but all through it the skis have always been fast and I have been able to have some input on new designs and this is a pretty cool chance for me.
Skiing on the highest level is an individual sport. But the Canadians are always giving the impression you are great buddies and friends. How important is that?
Working as a team in this sport is huge. Even though you compete and win or lose as an individual, your teammates are the guys you are travelling and training with for a huge part of the year. If you aren’t having good times with the guys on your team it will show on the hill! We are lucky in Canada that we have one of the best teams, so in training when you are pushing with the other guys you can know that if you are fast with team, you are going to stack up well against the rest of the world.
Do you agree that winning Olympic medals with two fellow Canadians and Elan Team members is a very unique form of Always Good Times?
Oh for sure! Winning an Olympic Gold and then having Kelsey and Brit go first and second just two days later was the best form of Always Good Times!