Veteran giant slalom ace Jean-Philippe Roy set to retire
CALGARY, ALTA. (March 12, 2013) — Veteran giant slalom specialist Jean-Philippe Roy – famed for his unique ability to “attack from the back” in races – is set to hang up his skis at the Sport Chek Alpine Canadian Championships later this month.
The 34-year-old from Ste-Flavie, Que., has been a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team since 1998, recording six top-10 finishes in World Cup races and competing at six world championships and two Olympic Winter Games.
Roy, a father of two, has battled back from several serious injuries to be a consistent performer at the highest level of the sport but it’s his ability to produce strong results when starting late, often in difficult conditions, that has defined his career.
“My strength was starting at the back and moving to the front. That was my specialty,” said Roy, who is planning to become an osteopath. “Maybe it’s because I skied a lot of moguls when I was young. I always just found a good way to ski in (difficult conditions). I had good reflexes, I guess.”
Many of Roy’s standout performances have followed that same pattern. His career-best result in World Cup was a fifth-place finish in giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy, in 2004, while he was also seventh at the world championships in Are, Swden, in 2007. In both instances he started outside the top 30. Roy had two ninth-place finishes in slalom early in his career – in 2001 and 2002 – when he started 66th and 55th.
“My fifth place in Alta Badia when Thomas (Grandi) won there and I was starting 48th – that was for sure one of my best results,” Roy said. “Are in 2007 when I was seventh (at the world championships) – it was a result that made me keep on going.”
Roy found a way to battle back from two serious ACL injuries that both came at a time when he seemed to be at the peak of his career.
“The hardest part was ACLs coming when I was skiing my best,” said Roy, who was injured at the world champs in Bormio, Italy, in 2005 and then again in 2009, forcing him to miss the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. “Maybe if I would have had a so-so season when it happened I wouldn’t have come back. But I don’t regret anything. I did my best and it just happened. I’m pretty happy with what came afterwards.”
Ironically, Roy’s body has held up extremely well in what will be his final season on the World Cup tour. But after starting the 2012-13 season with a 17th-place finish in Soelden, Austria, he didn’t qualify for the second run in his next four World Cups.
“My body feels good. It’s been one of the best seasons of my career for that. I don’t feel pain anywhere,” Roy said. “The new skis were maybe not the best for me and my style of skiing but this year I was just not taking the risks I used to take. When I was racing I didn’t think it was an issue but now I’m looking back . . . Maybe unconsciously I was holding back, trying not to get hurt.
“It’s funny because one of my strengths has always been taking risks. Often that meant I would not finish or get injured but all of a sudden it was my weakness. It was kind of tough to deal with that. When I didn’t qualify for world championships, I made my decision. I feel I gave everything I had.”
Roy grew up skiing with 2011 world downhill champion Erik Guay and slalom ace Julien Cousineau.
“It was the three of us and we helped each other a lot,” Roy said. “From 16 on I grew up with Cousi and Erik – we’ve been together for a while.
“I started my career when Thomas (Grandi) was injured. When Thomas came back it was really fun – we had good chemistry. In training I was always pushing and then in the races, he always brought a lot. He helped me with that, for sure.
“François Bourque came along and really helped us with GS and then younger guys like Mike Janyk. It was always good to have the younger athletes to push you.”
Roy has always enjoyed giving back to the next generation of skiers. In the 2011-12 season, he began training alongside a young generation of Canadian skiers that included Erik Read, Phil Brown and Sasha Zaitsoff.
“Especially last year, I was always with them and it was really nice and refreshing,” Roy said. “I just wanted to give back. At that time, with my knee, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to race but training with them gave me a lot. That was one of the seasons when I qualified (for the second run) the most. For sure, they helped me and hopefully I helped them a little bit.”
Canadian Alpine Ski Team coach Dusan Grasic said Roy was a great role model to the younger racers.
“He was a huge inspiration for them,” Grasic said. “He worked hard and tried to do more than even the coaches asked of him. He was always in front.
“JP is just an unbelievable guy. He’s an athlete every coach would love to help. He gave a lot to Alpine Canada and the younger athletes.”
Grasic said Roy was often at the cutting edge of the sport and had the talent and dedication to achieve big things.
“I was a pioneer on the short skis when they first came out. Coaches learned a lot from him,” Grasic said. “Unfortunately, every time he had some good results he got hurt and had to fight back. He was an exceptional athlete who had a tremendous amount of bad luck. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Roy has already started a weekend course in natural therapy and will shortly begin training to become an osteopath. Two people who won’t be too sorry to see him retire from skiing are his sons Jake, 5, and Keegan, who is about to turn 3.
“They weren’t too sad. They are pretty happy about it,” laughed Roy. “Jake likes to ski in the woods and to do moguls – he’s a pretty good skier – but we’ll have to see if he wants to race.
“I skied four races in Quebec because I wanted to help some young kids with their penalties (points) but I haven’t skied in two weeks so I don’t think I’m going to nationals to try to win another title,” added Roy, a six-time Canadian champion, who plans to compete in giant slalom at the nationals in Whistler, B.C., on March 26, before retiring from ski racing. “It’s going to be a thank you for the coaches and the staff who have helped me in my career.”
Courtesy of Alpine Canada