May 30, 2009: Sad Day in Snowboarding

French snowboard phenom, Karine Ruby, died yesterday in a mountain climbing accident while training to become a mountain guide on Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe. She was thirty-one.

Karine was truly one of the female pioneers in the world of snowboarding. She took the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics when snowboarding was first introduced to the Games, and was the silver medalist in the 2002 Winter Olympics. She was world champion six times over and had 60+ World Cup wins. I think she had the most number of World Cup wins of any athlete.

When I first started racing, Karine was someone I was completely in awe of. She wasn’t the biggest girl out there which made her even more amazing that she was beating everyone despite her smaller frame. She was a powerful but smooth rider and I don’t think I ever saw her crash. She always raced with her long hair in a braid, tied at the end with a small stuffed animal. And she was always very nice, saying hello to me each time we passed. That speaks volumes of someone when a person of her athletic caliber was so friendly to the ‘little people’ trying to make their own mark in such a competitive sport.

I will always remember her as one of snowboarding’s greats, who not only had the physical talent to be the world’s best but also the integrity of a true champion.

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