World champion Warren Shouldice announces retirement
Reigning aerial world champion Warren Shouldice has decided to hang up his skis after a decade on Canada's freestyle ski team.
The 29-year-old from Calgary is a two-time Olympian. He finished sixth at the Torino Games in 2006 and 10th in Vancouver in 2010. Over his prestigious career, Shouldice had 61 FIS World Cup starts and landed on the podium a dozen times, including an impressive win in front of a hometown crowd in 2011. He competed in three World Championships, where he earned a bronze in 2009 and gold in 2011.
Shouldice will be remembered as an incredible athlete who had a knack for rebounding from adversity and who had a special relationship with an impressive signature trick.
At 19 years old, in 2002, Shouldice broke his neck in a fluke accident during summer water ramp training. He then went on to compete in his first World Cup only a few months later. It wasn't the first time he would prove his mettle on the air site.
The man who would forever be known as “Wookie” to his coaches and teammates went on to develop a trick that he remains the only aerialist in the world to compete. The jump is a lay, triple full, full (a quadruple twisting triple backflip with three twists on the second flip). Tradition says the first athlete to compete a trick earns the right to name it. Shouldice called his the “Lawn Chair 3000.”
“A lawn chair is slang in aerials for a buckled [bad] takeoff; 3000 is for the triple full," Shouldice explained. "It seemed like the most ridiculous thing I could name it, so I went with it. It’s kind of an inside joke.”
Shouldice performed the jump at the 2006 Torino Games and just barely missed the podium with a deep landing.
Then in, 2009 at a World Cup event in Quebec, Shouldice crashed badly on the trick and suffered a concussion and compressed vertebrae. Never one to give up, just six weeks later he rebounded at Worlds in Inawashiro, Japan and performed it again to take the bronze.
At the Vancouver Games Shouldice posted the highest score of the aerial competition with his signature jump, unfortunately he underperformed on his other jump in the event where two jumps scores are combined to determine the final placing and landed in 10th position.
Along with the opportunity to represent Canada at two Olympics, the highlight of Shouldice’s career came at the 2011 Worlds in Deer Valley, Utah. At that event, in a textbook clutch performance, he came back from seventh position after his first jump to put down a perfect lay, triple full, full and earn a perfect score to take the world title.
“That was three seconds that will last a lifetime,” said Shouldice. “To do that jump, that’s basically mine, under those circumstances, under the pressure, and to get a perfect score – to do the best jump I’ve ever done — and then at that perfect moment it was a dream come true. I have such profound respect for that trick. It’s such a hard jump to do well, let alone perfectly. And how everything came together at that moment in Deer Valley, I’ll remember it vividly and clearly for the rest of my life.”
The former gymnast did not take his decision to retire lightly. “It’s not a decision that you come to quickly. It’s something I’ve been thinking about probably ever since the Vancouver Games, but after the Games I decided that I had a little bit more in me and I managed to pull it together for that performance at Worlds.
“After getting injured in 2012 and taking some time off I found that I really enjoyed my time at home. I went to school and realized that I am ready to start the next chapter of my life. I’m really excited about getting an education, getting a job and moving forward,” said Shouldice.
Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge said Shouldice will be missed.
“Wookie was one of those athletes who was not only a marquee performer, but he developed into a real team leader. That’s the beauty of being involved with an athlete from the time they’re an adolescent, you really see an evolution and with Wookie it was profound. He was always a little in the shadows when he was younger but when it was his time to step up and lead the team he did it very well and was respected not only by his teammates but by competitors from other countries as well.”
Shouldice expressed his appreciation to his parents, his teammates past and present and all the coaches who helped him in his career. But he had special thanks for Canadian Aerial Coach Dennis Capicik.
“He’s been working with me my entire career,” said Shouldice, “And I can promise you that I never, ever, ever would have made it this far, or even made it period, without him. He’s the sole reason that I became an Olympian and a World Champion. With all the struggles I’ve faced, without him there I could not have done it.”
Capicik said he understands and respects Shouldice’s decision to retire and wishes him all the best for the future, but at the same time he acknowledged, “It’s going to be lonely without him. He and I developed a trust and a good rapport. We shared a good working relationship and a great friendship. Wook’s retirement represents an end of an era for the Canadian men’s aerial team, but we have a lot of new talent and lots of things to look forward to.”
Shouldice agreed that he’s leaving the team in good shape. “The team is in good hands. Oli (Gatineau, Quebec’s Olivier Rochon) won the Grand Prix last year so we’re looking good coming in to Sochi in 2014.”