John Russell's sports column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Justin Reiter was back on his board and back on the slopes of Howelsen Hill last week carving turns and ripping through the gates just like old times.
Eighteen months earlier, he had walked away from the world of competitive Alpine snowboarding hoping to move on with his life. He married his longtime girlfriend, Erica, moved to Crested Butte and started a new life away from the pressures of the World Cup. His free time was spent in the backcountry, and he went to work in a cubical.
But it didn’t take long to discover that something was missing in his life. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he knew where to start looking.
So he grabbed his snowboard and returned to the slopes to find his passion. He’s in good shape, and at 30 years old, he is back working with coach Thedo Remmelink and looking forward to his first World Cup start in more than a year this month in Telluride.
But while it may seem like old times to his teammates and to the people who have followed his career, Reiter is quick to point out that this time things are different.
He is healthy and is having fun.
He wants to win but said he’s not thinking about the results right now.
“I just want to find my passion through purpose,” Reiter said. “My passion is snowboarding and competing at the highest level.”
And he knows something about competing at the highest level. Before leaving after the 2010 season, Reiter spent seven years on the U.S. Snowboard Team and has posted a number of top results on the NorAm and World Cup circuits. But he also has struggled with injuries — including one that kept him out in 2009. Twice, he made runs for the U.S. Olympic team only to fall short of his goal in the 11th hour.
Reiter insists that this comeback is not fueled by a desire to make another run at the Olympics and that he isn’t even thinking about what it would take to get to Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
He said he came back to fill a void that consumed his life in the 18 months he was away from the sport. He said that he was burned out on competition after his last run but that he wasn’t done with snowboarding. He is hoping to find himself during the journey and maybe take care of some unfinished business.
“I think it’s the same for a lot of athletes after they retire,” Reiter said. “At some point, most athletes have to stop and ask what’s next.”
Reiter, who is riding with SG Snowboards, already has collected a second-place finish in a star-packed NorAm race at Copper Mountain and has rediscovered his passion in the process.
“I just can’t believe how much fun this is and how lucky I am to be doing this,” he said.
It should be fun for the rest of us to watch, no matter where he finishes.
— To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com