“I feel like a completely different athlete.”
That’s from Meryeta O’Dine of Prince George after tallying two bronze medals at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The 24-year-old placed in the top 3 in both the Women’s and Mixed Snowboard Cross events.
In an exclusive interview with Vista Radio, O’Dine said having the distinction of being the first PG athlete to win an Olympic medal is still sinking in.
“I definitely am very proud of it. I have been on the road for five months now and I am coming home. To be able to come home with two medals is just mind-blowing.”
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The journey to O’Dine’s first Olympic medal was anything but a walk in the park.
The 24-year-old, ranked 12th in the World Cup standings this season, won her first-round, quarterfinal, and semifinal races to advance to the final four where she placed third.
O’Dine admitted it was a very grueling experience.
“We often don’t do qualifiers and races on the same day. I had a lot of runs that day and especially being the longest course that we have been on in a handful of years is very tiring.”
“My goal was to qualify in the top five and once I qualified third I was very happy with that and basically you want to finish top two in every run moving forward. When you are in heats, you have a plan that you devise beforehand and when you are in the race you just stick to it and that’s how you know you are going to make it after each round.”
O’Dine received a stroke of luck during her semi-final run where French counterpart Julie Pereira De Sousa Malibeau wiped out late in the race, giving her a wide-open run to win the semi.
“While the girls were battling it out on turn four that I had a strong and fast low line and so that was the direction I was heading in to make a pass through there. Luckily, the crash happened a little bit above me because they were riding a bit more of a midline so I was able to take the line I had planned and it severely paid off.”
The local product noted the end result is a pretty good feather in the cap of what can be a topsy-turvy sport at times.
“It’s either I am not qualifying for the event and when I am in heats when I am not taken out somehow in a start section I am ending up in a pretty big final, which is very confidence building.”
“Basically, going into this event, I have been very mentally strong, throughout the last games, I was not in a very good mental health space.”
To put the cherry on the sundae, O’Dine joined forces with Eliot Grondin of Sainte-Marie, Quebec in the mixed event, collecting a second bronze.
However, the run was less than perfect as Italy’s Caterina Carpano landed on her but O’Dine brushed it off and finished the race.
“It happened so quickly and you don’t really realize it until you are face down in the snow. I was taking a line to get into the draft behind the other two girls and so was she. I went low on the jump, she went high and came right down on top of me.”
“You are not only racing for yourself in that event you are racing for someone else. You put a little bit more pressure on yourself to perform even though we all know that pressure doesn’t always make you a better athlete. I ended up trying to stay calm and have fun and Eliot always does an amazing job of taking the pressure off my back and to smile, have fun and be you,” added O’Dine.
The 24-year-old was also touched by the watch parties held at the Westwood Pub where her Mom, Virginia, along with friends and family gathered to view all of her races.
“I’ve always wanted that moment and I’ve always had kind of small, silly goals for myself and I always loved seeing the videos of the family reaction and seeing everyone together watching events on the big screen.”
“I am so glad that she (Virginia) had that environment for herself to watch the event with my friends and family.”
“But, it was definitely in my mind and heart on competition day and it felt really great to know that all of my friends and family were together watching it at the same time. It was hilarious because I actually called in-between time trials and finals where we had a 2.5-hour break so we went into the lounge and had some lunch. I Facetimed them while they were at Westwood and my best friend Natalie was like I can’t believe you are talking to me right now and I’m like I am just sitting here having lunch and not doing anything so why wouldn’t I call you guys,” added O’Dine.
It’s been a long road back to stardom for the local product. In 2018, O’Dine was scheduled to compete at the Pyeongchang winter games but an injury sustained during training dashed those plans.
Fast forward to 2020 and O’Dine experienced the most difficult year of her life.
With the world shutting down due to the emergence of COVID-19, she was dealt an even bigger blow as her brother Brandon lost his battle with cancer.
In addition, O’Dine struggled with anxiety and depression, which she overcame and became an elite-level Olympic athlete again.
“It was a terrible time really. What I did most was talk with my psychologist and talk with my doctor about doing cognitive-behavioral therapy. Taking those steps to not blame yourself but learn what the mental illness is and the symptoms are really about and that takes a lot off of yourself and brings your head around more to what is going on more.”
“When you are going through mental illness you question a lot of your purpose and values – like a lot of things that mattered to me never mattered to me before in my life. I switched off the national team because I felt it wasn’t the most understanding environment to be able to express the emotion sometimes because there was so much pressure to perform on the daily and sometimes you can’t control it when your mind is in it and you want to be the best athlete but your body is in a completely different world.”
“I feel like a completely different athlete this year. The coach that I went back to is a very trusting person that I have in my life on the BC team and he brought me the Canada Games medal (in PG), the North American overall medal I have had a lot of success with this team and I really needed to get back to feeling that way.”
Through thick and thin, one thing has remained constant for O’Dine – snowboarding continues to hold a special place in her heart.
“Snowboarding has always been a massive part of my life. It’s helped me through highs and the lowest of the lows. It’s something that I am going to keep close to my heart for as long as I can because really, it’s’ the most fun I can have.”
O’Dine noted it’s pretty cool to now be looked upon as an inspiration and role model for aspiring snowboarders, not just in PG, but across Canada.
“It reminds me of when I was younger and we had Maelle Ricker just after she had won the Olympics in Vancouver she came in to talk to us and it honestly feels insane to now be not quite in her position but still have the same influence.”