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Jasmine Baird ready for Olympic spotlight

The Whistler resident will be competing for Canada in slopestyle and big air at the 2022 Beijing Olympics
Jasmine Baird
Whistler’s Jasmine Baird hopes to look back on her first Olympic Games with pride, regardless of her finish in the standings.

For most people growing up east of Alberta, without access to world-renowned ski resorts at the tip of their fingers, summer reigns supreme when it comes to favourite seasons. Winter tends to find itself a few spots lower on the totem pole.

But while all her friends were enjoying the heat and dreading the return of colder temperatures, Team Canada snowboarder and Georgetown, Ont. native Jasmine Baird’s summers were mostly spent longing for snowfall and her next chance to get back on a board.

“It’s just always been a huge part of my life and I always felt like it gave me purpose,” she said. “When I was snowboarding it just kind of gave me that outlet and I could focus on my boarding, my tricks, or whatever I wanted to be working on that day.”

Baird, who has been snowboarding longer than she can even remember, took to the sport immediately. Even at just two or three years old, when Beaver Valley, her home ski hill, closed for the day, Baird would spend another couple hours hiking up, then riding down the hill.

Her love for the sport, even from the first time her parents put her on a board, stemmed from the ability to constantly progress and reach new benchmarks within snowboarding.

It started with the challenge of moving from the bunny hill to steeper runs. But as she got older and her skills continued to increase, her goals just kept getting bigger.

“Once I got into the park, I really liked the adrenaline aspect of it and being able to face my fears and being super stoked on landing a new trick or hitting a bigger jump,” she said.

“[I] kind of just became addicted to that feeling of progressing and the adrenaline.”

Baird’s competitive career started as a teenager in Ontario, where she would compete in contests across the province. As the success started to come more regularly, so too did the opportunities for bigger and better competitions. By about 15 years old she was had graduated to national-level competitions.

“I remember the most stressed I’ve ever been in my early career was my first trip outside of Ontario to an Air Nation [event] in Calgary. I’m paying all this money, don’t know how it’s going to go, don’t know what the course is going to be like, but that contest did go pretty well,” she said.

While that first year of national competitions came with average results, by her second year on the circuit Baird was winning nearly every contest. It was “a huge confidence boost for me and sort of helped me believe in myself,” she said.

“That’s when I got asked to be on the Next Gen team. It just felt like a pretty direct progression and always seemed like I knew what my goals were, and everything was pretty clear in what I had to do.”

All that momentum Baird was gaining in the snowboard world, moving from national contests to competing with Team Canada internationally to, eventually, the World Cup circuit, came screeching to a halt with a torn ACL while training in New Zealand in August 2019, which forced her to have to keep track of her competition over social media while stuck at home rehabbing.

“I’ve been snowboarding since I was two years old, and the biggest break I had ever taken from it would be from the end of winter to the start of the next one, but this time it was like a full year and a bit off,” she said. “So it was hard to watch all my competitors progress and just feeling like I was falling behind and like there was nothing I could do about it.”

Even after being cleared to return to competition, Baird struggled with mental blocks stemming from the fear of re-injuring her knee, and good results were slow to return.

It wasn’t until the start of this season, while training and competing in Switzerland, that the 22-year-old Whistler resident felt 100-per-cent back to her old self again, everything aligning just in time to qualify and compete at her first Olympic Games in Beijing.

“I’m beyond stoked. I feel like all the pieces have just come together now … [I’ve] been keeping strong in the gym, getting lots of physio, eating well, just staying healthy,” said Baird.

“It’s been my dream to go to the Olympics ever since I started competing, and at times it definitely felt really far out of reach, but we’re here and ready to go and it’s coming up soon and I’ve put in so much work and time and effort into this. I’ve always just stayed really determined and I just really couldn’t be happier.”

For Baird, the past couple weeks have been spent lapping the park on Blackcomb Mountain, hitting the gym and avoiding COVID-19 at all costs before flying out to Beijing.

As far as goals for the Games go, Baird said she’s trying to avoid focusing too much on rankings, but more so wants to put down a run she can be proud of, take in as much of the Olympic experience as she can, and hopefully inspire young girls across the country to chase their dreams in snowboarding.

“I’m just really motivated by how much I’ve wanted this for so long. This is definitely huge for me and definitely the highlight of my career up until now,” she said. “I do think it’s possible to do really well and hopefully get on the podium, but at this point, I’m just hoping to put down a run that I am happy with, do my best tricks and just leave China with a landed run and wherever that puts me, it puts me, and I’m going to be stoked on that.”