Ski cross has been an Olympic sport since its introduction in Vancouver 2010; the Canadian Ski Cross Team has had Stanley Hayer at the helm of their squad for half of those Games.
But prior to coaching one of the world’s best ski cross teams, Stanley was clicking into his boots as an athlete, placing 10th in the inaugural Olympic event in 2010. “I wish I would have had more success at the Olympics but for sure being part of a strong Canadian Team at the Vancouver Olympics will always be something I will remember,” he reflects. Prior to making the switch to ski cross, Stanley was a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, showcasing his deep roots in ski racing.
It’s Stanley’s unique combination of athletic and coaching experience, both inside the gates as an athlete and outside of them as a leader, that makes him a valuable resource for the Canadian team. “With my alpine and ski cross resume I feel like I can really help the athletes build their skill set for ski cross. I also feel the years I spent traveling to every ski cross event I could find has really helped me sharpen my eye to how a course will ski.”
Despite these years of experience under his belt, Stanley still feels the pressure as a coach more acutely than he did as an athlete. The inability to do anything more while watching his racers navigate the course is a specific pain point.
“On race day, the athletes are really 100% in control of their execution, no matter how hard you try to make decisions for them while watching them ski down the course on the big screen,” he explains. “The other aspect of no control are the injuries, which are very hard to deal with because every coach hates when an athlete gets hurt.”
The ski cross team competes each season between November and March, but despite the prolonged success of the team on the world tour the Olympics have always held a special cache.
“To me the Olympics are an event where the best athletes are putting it on the line for fame and fortune,” says Stanley. “I see the Olympics as proof that you have made it to the top of your sport, all the years of training finally paying off.”
And with reaching the pinnacle of an athletic career, there also comes a separate kind of freedom.
“All the ups and downs of a career are forgotten for a few weeks,” Stanley explains. “For the team, I don’t think it is much different, the athletes train hard so they can be their best, the staff works hard to their best. Every athlete and coach dreams of the Olympics and with the worldwide reach of the events, it in a way, validates all the effort that we all put into our work.
And if there’s any doubt about Stanley’s love for the sport, his plans for the future lay those to rest: “I wish I had a grand plan but the only thing I know is I want to stay involved in the SX world for as long as I can. I love seeing athletes succeed and grow, not only as athletes but as people as well.”
The Canadian team competed in Beijing on February 17 (women) and 18 (men), showing the depth in their team with strong results from both the men and women. Marielle Thompson, who is one of the most decorated skiers in the history of ski cross racing, raced to a silver medal at Beijing 2022, earning her second Olympic medal. Teammates Britt Phelan, Courtney Hoffos and Hannah Schmidt all competed in the small final, finishing 5th, 6th and 7th respectively. On the men side, Brady Leman led the pack with a 6th place finish, followed by Reece Howden 9th, Jared Schimdt 10th and Kevin Drury 12th.