Whistler Adaptive alumnus Alex Cairns retires 

'It's been a super wild ride,' Squamish Paralympian says

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MARCUS HARTMAN - Alex Cairns in Slalom in Korea, 2018.
  • Photo by Marcus Hartman
  • Alex Cairns in Slalom in Korea, 2018.

The next time one of Squamish's athletic stars hits the slopes, it won't be as a professional athlete. Local paralympic sit-skier Alex Cairns is retiring.

Cairns told The Chief on Dec. 16 that the call was made this past spring.

"It's been a super wild ride," the 27-year-old said.

"It's been a huge team effort to get this to the point that it did, and I was able to tag off all the goals that I had set out for myself when I joined the sport. It is thanks to everyone in town who's totally helped me out."

According to Cairns, the decision to end his career arrived after this season's results didn't produce Top 3 placements.

"I had another kind of pretty mediocre season, and the coach actually pulled the pin," said the Squamish athlete, who raced for Team Canada.

"It was an OK season but not good, and not good enough for the length of time that I was with the team."

He said under the Own The Podium funding program, either a gold, silver or bronze is needed to get cash.

Funding coming to the group required that Cairns had to make the Top 3 in his races, which he didn't achieve last season.

"It was tough, I knew it was a rough season, and I knew the rules of the team, but I thought I might have one more season in me to give it a go, but evidently that was wrong," he said.

"I think there may have been a chance of going another season if I'd shown improvement and shown a lot of motivation for it, but at the time I was quite beat down."

But while he didn't make it to the podium, Cairns still was able to make Top 10 placements on at least some occasions this year.

At the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships held at the start of this year in Slovenia, Cairns placed 7th among 20 athletes who were racing in the men's slalom sit-skiing event.

He'd hit Lucky Number 7 again at Morzine, France, on March 20.

On one occasion at La Molina, Spain, Cairns managed to place fourth.

For the next steps, Cairns said Sport Canada has some money set aside for schooling that he's been starting to tap into.

He's started taking some Red Cross courses and finished a mountain bike instructor course this summer.

"I don't think I'm going to teach other than a few volunteer days here and there," he said of a possible ski coach career. Those positions are generally voluntary, he added.

He said he's been offered a leadership role at the ticket window for Whistler Blackcomb. He'll spend the winter working with a small group there.

Cairns said he'd try his hand at ski touring as well and added he's looking forward to spending time with people he's close to.

The Squamish athlete was born with spina bifida, a condition where there is incomplete closing around the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord.

This has resulted in paralysis at the two lowest vertebrae in the lumbar spine.

Cairns has regularly been making headlines for his athletic achievements. Perhaps one of his biggest accomplishments was representing Canada at the Paralympics in PyeongChang in 2018.

"I'm super grateful for the opportunity that was provided," Cairns said.

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