Ross Rebagliati to seek Liberal nomination in B.C.
Published Friday, October 23, 2009 5:38PM EDT
The world's first Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding is ready for a challenge of a different sort -- running for federal politics in his B.C. riding.
Ross Rebagliati announced he will seek the nomination to run as the Liberal candidate for the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding against Conservative International Trade Minister Stockwell Day.
"It's something that's always been in the back of my mind," Rebagliati told CTV's Power Play on Friday afternoon.
The retired Olympian added that his family roots date back to the 1950s in the area, and when he heard that no one was going to run against Day, he decided to throw his hat in the ring.
"I felt like it was my responsibility as a member of this community to step up to the plate," he said over the phone from his home in Kelowna, B.C.
Rebagliati, who will officially seek the nomination on Monday, noted that Day isn't invincible in the riding, despite holding the riding for more than nine years.
Rebagliati famously won gold in snowboarding in 1998, only to have it stripped within days when traces of marijuana were found in his system.
However, that ruling was quickly overturned and the medal reinstated. Rebagliati has always maintained the traces in his system were the result of second-hand smoke.
When asked about the marijuana issue, Rebagliati said that he wants to get through the nomination process before he wades into any debates.
He added: "I don't want to become the 'one issue' guy."
Rebagliati stressed that he wanted to connect with younger voters who have become disenchanted with politics by "getting them off the couch."
Rebagliati retired in 1999 and has since been involved in real estate and broadcasting, as well as teaching snowboard racing. Rebagliati, his wife and their five-month-old son live in Kelowna, B.C.
"Since Nagano I have dedicated my life to furthering amateur sport and youth issues," Rebagliati said in the release.
"This desire to make a difference, combined with my long-held Liberal values and great respect for Michael Ignatieff, have led to my decision to seek the nomination in Okanagan-Coquihalla."
Riding President Darvinder Garcha said the 38-year-old father and husband is a welcome addition to the team, but didn't confirm whether Rebagliati's bid for the nomination will go uncontested.
"Ross' profile, energy and history of community activism will be a tremendous asset to our association and our Party," Garcha said in the release.
"We are thrilled to have him as a candidate for the nomination and look forward to working with him to reach out to the people of Okanagan-Coquihalla and take on Stockwell Day and his narrow Reform-Conservative agenda."
Rebagliati has said his experience at Nagano prepared him for the upcoming challenge.
At just 26 he was thrust into the world spotlight, forced to defend his integrity and athleticism with little support or advice -- going from national hero to laughing stock almost in an instant.
Living through such an intense political experience, he said, helped ready him to enter politics on a federal level -- this time on purpose.
The training, focus and commitment required to win Olympic gold, he said, would also serve him well in a political career.