Through countless injuries, Chris Del Bosco still believes he can compete with the best
Contributor: Benjamin Steiner
Chris Del Bosco has been around ski cross since the early days, but even after a long, successful career and a summer when retirement crossed his mind (only briefly!), the 38-year-old is determined to earn himself another shot at an elusive Olympic gold.
A dual-citizen, he was born in Colorado and inherited Canadian citizenship from his father, who came to the state for school and hockey at the University of Denver. Chris ski raced and played hockey growing up because it was “just what you did in Vail.” He dropped hockey in favour of skiing at 14.
While skiing back then was focused on alpine racing, at 17, Del Bosco found a new passion away from the clock’s gaze, opening his eyes to the world of the halfpipe, slopestyle, and big mountain, before he eventually found himself in his first ski cross start gate.
In 2007, Del Bosco had been competing in pro events around the USA, and that is when he found ski cross and future teammates, Davey Barr, Stanley Hayer, and Brian Bennett. The four began to form the dominant force that has grown into the Canadian Ski Cross Team. A coach he had worked with before, Eric Archer invited Del Bosco for a tryout, and since then, he has proudly worn the maple leaf.
After a few years of struggling Del Bosco thought his Olympic dream was over. Not the case. At the same time, he was getting everything back together, the 2010 Olympics were on the horizon and Canada was hoping to assemble a strong contingent to challenge the home podium. “It perfectly lined up for me to catch the dream I had for a long time,” he said.
His Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games finished with a close fourth-place following a crash in the final which remains his Olympic best. Since then, his career has been riddled with injuries but he has shown resilience to rebound every time.
“I had a nagging patellar tendonitis issue in those Olympics,” he said, “I had an MRI in the athlete’s village afterward.” The post-race MRI showed that despite being able to ski comfortably, his injury was worse than first imagined. It was one of the first significant injuries of his career, but it certainly did not hold him back after getting it fixed; the following season was one of his best, winning a World Championship title in Deer Valley, Utah.
Since that injury, Del Bosco has had a tough run. He has put his body through stressful situations between skiing and a professional biking racing career, making the last four-years incredibly frustrating. “I’ve come back strong, but every offseason, I have had to focus on rebuilding to pre-injury levels rather than progressing and addressing some of my other gaps.” That is until 2020 when the World Cup season abruptly ended, and a lack of bike competitions left him with a healthy offseason for the first time in ages.
“Last year wasn’t quite the year that I wanted, but I have been able to make some really good gains this summer,” he said of his upper-body and start-gate focused regime. Although he was ecstatic to be healthy heading into the offseason, he hit a bump midway through with another injury. “I’m in the age range where things like this are more likely to happen, and I ruptured my Achilles. It wasn’t anything that I did wrong, just one of those things that happen.”
In pain again, retirement crossed his mind. Over the phone after a gruelling workout in Whistler B.C., he said “There was a point for about 30 seconds where I was over it, I was sick of always having to rebuild, but I quickly realized that I still have a few things left to prove and that this was just another bump in the road.”
He had surgery in August and has been working hard to recover for the start of the season. In the two months since surgery, he is feeling healthy and has also been able to continue training on his upper-body and starts, a factor he hopes can lead him to success through the twilight of his career.
Recovering again, Del Bosco is one of the last competing members of Canada’s first great generation of ski cross racers. Although he knows his time competing among the world’s best is closer to the end than the beginning, he is quick to say that “this old dog isn’t quite finished yet,” and is determined to give himself another shot at Olympic gold.