By Sarah Tone, Communications Coordinator
At the 2019 Canada Winter Games, a then 17-year-old Keenan Demchuk had one goal: to win. Leading into his first-ever Games, he was the back-to-back top-ranked snowboarder from Manitoba. He and his coach, his brother Braeden, were both impressed by the magnitude of the event, and both have shared memories of supporting the squash team and cheering on the Herd.
“I loved watching the other sports. Plus, cheering for your home province while whacking cowbells as loud as you can is a blast,” said Keenan.
“At the time, this was the pinnacle of our coaching/competing combo. The Games did a fantastic job at establishing camaraderie between athletes and coaches. Overall, the event felt more like a celebration of athlete success across Canada than that of a high-stress competition,” added Braeden.
As ambitious as he was going in, Keenan’s victories on the course weren’t results-based. Instead, the challenges he faced along the road to and at the Games were driving factors in his determination to carry on. Keenan had something to prove.
“It’s important for the riders and coaches to remember that [the Canada Winter Games] is just one more day on the snowboard. If things go great, that’s awesome. If things don’t go your way, that’s okay. Not every day on your snowboard can be a good one and you need to learn from what went wrong and keep pushing,” said Keenan.
Keenan and Braeden were both dialed in to the opportunity to learn from the other competitors. Recognizing the Canada Games are one stop on the performance pathway helped them watch the other riders, take notes, and analyse performances and progress.
After the Games, they took all they’d learned and worked to assess Keenan’s own performance to identify the goals and tricks they’d need to work on to keep up, and take it to the next level – the FIS Snowboard World Cup.
The momentum from the Canada Games experience, and their sibling connection, helped them train together for the rest of the season and keep pushing towards their new goal.
“Keenan and I have a high level of trust for one another. Working alongside my brother to help him attain his dreams will always be a moment of pride. The level of fulfillment is unmatched by any other experience. Each time we are able to reach a new milestone, persevere through a challenge, or simply have a good day working together, our bond gets stronger,” said Braeden.
With a new challenge, and biggest professional opportunity ahead of them, they relied heavily on that trust system, bond, and their shared Canada Games experience to get them through.
“Having Braeden as my coach was amazing. Competing in a World Cup for the first time is a nerve-racking experience and it was perfect for me to have a friendly face by my side as I went through it. Since we are brothers, it’s easy for Braeden to recognize how I’m feeling and what to do about it,” said Keenan.
Keenan is now on a path to bigger and better things. Having some experience in major competitions, he’s focused on growth and next steps.
“Similar to the Canada Winter Games, the World Cup was another excellent opportunity to watch other top riders compete, this time on the world stage. It was an event that reminded me I still have a lot of work to do even if I’m able to qualify for events with points. These guys and girls are professional athletes, seeing their routines and strategies during the event was important for me to learn from.”