MOUNTAINS OF FUN: A Q&A with Canadian Alpine Ski Team racer (and Ottawa boy) Dustin Cook

MOUNTAINS OF FUN: A Q&A with Canadian Alpine Ski Team racer (and Ottawa boy) Dustin Cook

Meet Dustin Cook. At 23, the Ottawa native already has an impressive list of Nor-Am Cup wins under his belt, not to mention a solid Twitter feed and legend status at his home hill of Mont Ste-Marie. Dayanti Karunaratne chats with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team racer about keeping it fun, preparing for race day, and coming home.

Race day: Dustin Cook in action at the Beaver Creek World Cup in December 2011.

How would you describe your racing career?
I’m happy with it so far. I’m having a lot of fun and learning a lot. Especially in the last year, I’ve learned not to get down on anything. You just have to pick yourself up and move on.

What happened in the past year that taught you this?
I’ve been working a lot with a sports psychologist. When you’re at the Nor-Am Cup and World Cup level, it’s easy to get down on yourself if you don’t do as well as you want to do. But you’ve got to learn to deal with it, and luckily I have.

What’s your strategy for dealing with disappointing race results?
There are positives in everything, and you just have to find them. I debrief with my coaches after every race, so if it’s something that went drastically wrong or is a recurring problem, then we talk more.

What do you see as your biggest achievement so far?
Besides just getting on the national team, which is something I always dreamed about, it was winning the Nor-Am overall title, because it’s not just one race but the accumulation [of points over a series]. It was a goal, and I put a lot of work and training into that achievement.

What’s the hardest thing about racing at the international level?
Travel. It’s tough to live out of a suitcase and constantly be travelling. You’re always in a new place. At the same time, it’s great because you get to see the most amazing places.

What’s it like to come home to Ottawa?
It’s awesome. I love it because it’s a small big city. It’s still my home. But I don’t get to spend more than a few weeks here. When I do, I love just hanging out with friends and spending time at Mont Ste-Marie. It’s so relaxing there.

What advice would you give to an aspiring racer in Ottawa?
Have fun. Always keep it fun. It’s going to be hard, but if you love it, keep doing it and things will work out.

How do you get psyched for a race?
I’m super-mellow on race day. I try to treat every day like a training day. My first year [on the national team], I was super-nervous and I would do things differently in races than I would do in training, and that doesn’t work out too well in performance. I always had good training runs, though, so I changed my approach to treat race day like training, and it’s working out. I joke around at the start and listen to music — I love electronic music.

Your favourite place to ski?
Whistler. Everything about it is great. That Olympic downhill track is the best in the world. Unfortunately they’re not using it anymore. And then you’ve got the whole Whistler scene, which is amazing.

What’s the most challenging part of being on the national team?
The stress of racing season. Training is pretty fun, but when the races start, you’re expected to perform, and when you don’t, that can weigh on you.

What’s the most fun part?
Skiing every day. I get to do what I love every day.

Follow Dustin Cook on Twitter at @dustincook