Slopestyle gold medalist Dara Howell comes to GBC

20 year-old, Canadian Olympic gold medalist visited George Brown in hopes of inspiring young athletes

Gold medalist Dara Howell answers questions from George Brown College students on March 26 hoping to learn from her early success. Photo: Keren Fan/The Dialog

Gold medalist Dara Howell answers questions from George Brown College students on March 26 hoping to learn from her early success. Photo: Keren Fan/The Dialog

On March 26, the George Brown College (GBC) Student Association (SA) welcomed Canadian gold medal slopestyle skier Dara Howell. Visiting as part of her Red Bull Athlete Tour, Howell shared the story of her journey to gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, hoping to inspire young athletes.

The event was an open Q&A format, hosted by Red Bull Canada and the SA. The audience included students, young athletes, avid skiers and members of the media.

Slopestyle skiing or snowboarding is where the athlete will ski down hills taking on a variety of obstacles such as rails, jumps and other terrain.

At the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Games, slopestyle was recognized as an official event for the first time, making Dara Howell the first freestyle skier to win a gold medal in slopestyle at the inaugural event. She was only 19 years old at that time.

Howell began skating at just 18 months old. By 15, she switched her focus from figure skating to freestyle skiing, feeling that figure skating was too structured and disciplined.

At the 2012 Winter X Games in Aspen, where she won a bronze medal, Howell was the youngest female competitor. At that time, she hadn’t even graduated from high school yet.

Howell won her first FIS World Cup medal and captured silver at the 2013 FIS World Championships behind Canadian teammate Kaya Turski, according to the Canadian Olympic Team’s website.

“I’m more than someone who wants to win, but I just said, ‘do my best’,” recalls Howell.

Doug Bishop, general manager of Newschoolers.com as well as the event’s question-master, asked Howell if there is any one person she gives the most credit for getting her into the sport.

“Sarah Burke (a Canadian freestyle skier, a pioneer of the superpipe event, and 4 time gold medalist at the Winter X Games) for sure. She is awesome and she is the reason why I got to spot,” says Howell. “I (looked) at the magazine and articles online and said to my mother, ‘that’s so cool, I want to be like this.’ Sarah inspires me and inspires lots of people.”

Howell added that another person who had influenced her a lot is her grandfather, who is still skiing at 91 years old.

During the talk, Howell shared the video of her at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Howell expressed that when she stood on the starting point she told herself that she had done everything she could at that point and to just go out and show the world what she’s got.

Howell then told her audience to “trust yourself and trust your talent.”

For the second part of the event Howell answered questions from the audience and had a free talk with them.

“Follow all your focus, all your patience, do what you like to do, and have fun,” says Howell.

When asked about her future plans, Howell says that she may go back to the Olympics or even go to school.

“If I went to school, I would go into sports marketing or something related to sports for sure. That’s something that I’d like,” she says.

Howell showed her gold medal to guests and took photos with the audience and fans at the end of the event.

“This is a really, really good experience. Dara is great and she is completely relatable to us, and good for young skiers and snowboarders who really don’t get to be seen or heard,” says GBC student Adam Store, who also introduced students to the George Brown College Ski and Snowboard Club.

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Slopestyle gold medalist Dara Howell comes to GBC