Olympic snowboarder Spencer O’Brien is one of the featured athletes in a new Indigenous Sport Gallery to be unveiled Tuesday at the BC Sports Hall of Fame in Vancouver. The exhibit recognizes Indigenous athletes who have made an impact on B.C.’s sport history.
“It’s really exciting. I think it’s such a cool thing that the BC Sports Hall of Fame is doing to include and feature Indigenous athletes, and the history of Indigenous sport in the province,” O’Brien said. “I was really honoured and excited when they reached out to me to be involved.”
The Courtenay-raised O’Brien spent her early years in Alert Bay. She graduated from Isfeld Secondary in Courtenay, and now lives in Vancouver.
At the Winter Olympics February in South Korea, O’Brien placed ninth in big air and 22nd in the controversial slopestyle competition that was marred by gusting winds. She has recovered from knee surgery after injuring her ACL at the X Games shortly before the Olympics, and plans to resume training in November.
O’Brien had also competed at the 2014 Sochi Games, where she was 12th in slopestyle. Before the competition, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
“The Olympics and me haven’t really agreed that much,” she said with a laugh. “But that’s OK. It’s part of snowboarding, it happens. I did my best.”
She’s had better luck at the X Games, where she has won six medals, including a slopestyle gold in 2016. She was also a world champion in 2012.
At just 30 years of age, O’Brien might have another Olympics in her.
“I’m going to take it year by year. I’ve been competing professionally for over 15 years. I’m still totally in love with competing.”
She advises up-and-coming snowboarders to always remember why they love the sport.
“That’s been my key to success in longevity, is how happy snowboarding makes me feel and how much I love it. I think as kids get into the international and Olympic level, it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. The days aren’t all fun. I think it’s important to remember that, and to remember why you do it and why you love it.
“Your passion and your love essentially becomes your job, so you have to find that balance of it being your work but also the thing that makes you super happy. It’s a gift. It’s so amazing to get to do that for a living.”