Until recently, Austin White—like many Canadians—admits he would have been hard pressed to locate Kazakhstan on a map.
This week, the 19-year-old snowboarder from Oyama is en route to the Central Asian nation to compete at the 2017 Winter Universiade.
White is one of 122 athletes who will represent Canada at the world university games, hosted by the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 8.
A former national champ in snowboard cross in the 14-and-under age division, White will line up next week alongside some of best student-athletes from around the world.
Last fall, after submitting an application to Canada Snowboard, White realized a longtime goal by being named to a national team.
“I thought it would be cool attending the university games and competing for Canada,” White said. “It’s kind of a benchmark for athletes, you can’t go a lot higher than competing at a world championship.
“I wanted to experience that and see what I can do that level. I’m excited to find out.”
At just age 11, White had a hunch there just may be a future in snowboarding when when won his first race in the 14-year-old division.
“That made me realize maybe I could do something in the sport and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said White, a graduate of KSS.
White went on to make the B.C. Development team at 13, then two years later was named to the B.C. Snowboard Cross provincial squad.
He has three top-eight career finishes on the NorAm Cup circuit, and also competed for B.C. at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George.
A multi-sport athlete for most of his life, White is also a member of the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s cross country running team
As for his expectations at the biggest competition he’s ever attended, White simply wants to perform to his abilities.
“Obviously getting into finals would be phenomenal,” said White, a first-year human kinetics student at UBCO. “Really, my goals have already been met by competing for Canada.
“Everything from here on in is icing on the cake. I just want to give it my best, not have any regrets, and if I can do that, there’s nothing more I can ask for.”
Aside from the lure and thrill of the competition itself, White is also looking forward to being part of a Canadian team which will compete in six different sports at the game.
“I haven’t really met any athletes from the other sports, so I’m looking forward to that once we get there,” he said. “Being in that atmosphere where everyone else will be under stress and pressure to perform for their country I think will be a good experience.
“I’m sure some close bonds will be created in that environment, so I’m looking forward to that.”
The snowboard cross competition is set for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.
The trip to Kazakhstan is 100 per cent self-funded and will cost White upwards of $4,500.
To assist White with funding or sponsorship, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.