Comox snowboarder Carle Brenneman’s Olympic dream became a reality, Friday in Pyeongchang, Korea, as she competed for Canada in the women’s snowboard cross competition.
While, ideally, her day would have lasted two more runs – she was eliminated in the quarter-finals – the end result did little to dull the sheen of what has been a lifelong goal.
“Making it to the Olympics is something I have dreamed of as a kid – it’s definitely a huge accomplishment to be here,” said Brenneman in a post-race interview with the Comox Valley Record. “Winning a medal is what I came here for so that would be the actual dream come true. I’m proud of the work I put in and I did everything I could to make that possible. Unfortunately it wasn’t my day and I am still proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
Her parents shared in the excitement, as they travelled to Korea to cheer on their Olympian daughter. They were at the finish line for the competition, and Carle’s mom, Lori, said it was both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience.
“As parents we were very nervous for Carle. The course was extremely tough and up until the day of the race wind has been a huge factor,” she told The Record. “There were a number of athletes that were injured during practice and qualifying rounds. I had the opportunity to talk to quite a few mothers of snowboard cross athletes, both men’s and women’s, and with this course our strongest hope, as mothers, was for them to finish unscathed.”
A teammate of Carle’s – Meryeta O’Dine, of Prince George – was one of the aforementioned casualties. She crashed in training and a resulting concussion forced her to bow out of the competition.
Friday’s comp (Thursday evening in Canada) started with qualifying runs, to seed competitors. With only 24 competitors suiting up on race day, a spot in the quarters was assured, as long as a posted time was achieved.
“Time trails break down the heats and give you gate choice,” said Brenneman. “On the Olympic course it wasn’t make or break for lane choice so I wasn’t too worried.”
Brenneman completed her first run in 1:21.57, tied for 16th, with teammate Zoe Bergermann, of North Vancouver.
Tess Critchlow of Kelowna was 15th overall.
A top-12 finish in Round 1 of qualifying would have advanced them directly to the quarter-finals. Instead, Brenneman and her teammates all had to go through the second round of qualifying.
Brenneman posted a time of 1:20.89 in Round 2, despite not feeling comfortable with her run.
“The second run was probably my worst run of my whole day,” said Brenneman. “I think I almost fell about five times. I almost gave up a few times but all those mistakes still made for a faster time then my first. It definitely gives you confidence when you get a good and fast run put in before finals.”
Critchlow and Bergermann also improved their times, and ended up slotted in the same quarter-final heat QF2).
Brenneman was in the fourth quarter-final heat. She pinpointed her demise in the quarter-final to a specific part of the course.
“It was the five-roller jump between corner 1 and 2,” she said. “I ended up coming a little short on the top two that I was doubling. It killed my speed and I knew I’d have to fight to make it back. I tried to pass again in corner 2 and 5 but I unfortunately was not able to get a clean pass with a girl falling into my line in both corners.”
She placed fourth in the heat, just 0.40 seconds behind Belle Brockhoff, of Australia. The top three finishers in each quarter-final moved on to the semis.
Critchlow advanced to the semifinals. She finished fourth in her semifinal heat, to advance to the consolation, or “small final,” where she placed third.
Their final Olympic rankings were Critchlow, ninth; Brenneman, 14th; Bergermann (who had a DNF in her quarter-final), 23rd.
Lori said that while her daughter was disappointed with her early exit, that’s a feeling exclusive to the athletes.
“Of course for the athletes themselves nothing but a podium was good enough. The fortitude and strength of these athletes is undeniable. Carle is disappointed that she didn’t achieve that podium placement for both herself as well as her many supporters. Our heart goes out to a Carle. For us as parents, we couldn’t be prouder.”
Now that the competitive portion of her Olympic journey has concluded, Carle and her teammates can share the rest of the experience, with their respective families.
“We have been so focused on training and preparing for our event they we haven’t been able to really do anything yet,” said Carle. “So now we are going to watch as many events as possible soak in the whole Olympic experience and cheer on Canada.”
Carle Brenneman will be 32 by the time the 2022 Winter Olympics take place in Beijing, China. Will she be back?
“Yeah I mean if I’m still enjoying it and my body can still handle it, then I’m all in,” she said.