Ross Rebagliati ends political career

On Nov. 19, Ross Rebagliati, the first snowboarder to win an Olympic gold medal, ended his campaign for a seat in Canada's Parliament. He was a Liberal Party candidate for the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding in British Columbia.

"I have to prioritize things in my life, and the things I need to do right now are provide for my family and be with my family," Rebagliati said in a phone interview as he walked through Whistler Village.

Before embarking on a political career, Rebagliati was known for his performance at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where his gold medal was stripped when he tested positive for trace amounts of marijuana.

Rebagliati maintained his test results were due to inhaling second-hand smoke, and his medal was reinstated, as cannabinoids were not yet on the IOC's list of banned substances.

"He was a great candidate and we're hopeful that the relationship will continue," said Sarah Bain, director of communications for the Liberal Party. "We were proud to have him as a candidate."

Rebagliati said his political campaign introduced him to a diverse cross-section of society and had similarities to an Olympic quest.

"It takes an incredible amount of focus to wrap your head around the concept of what you're doing," he said. "It's not a lot different from taking on a race that isn't going to happen for four years, like the Winter Olympics."

Political issues at the front of Rebagliati's platform included health care for seniors, affordable day care, an increase in the minimum wage and getting the younger generation involved in the political process.

Outside of the political arena, he also runs camps for young snowboarders, called the Rebagliati Alpine Snowboard Training Academy, or RASTA.

"It just wasn't in the cards this time around, but I'm definitely interested in the political process, and I might reconsider it in the future," Rebagliati said.

Rebagliati was running against Conservative Stockwell Day, who has represented the riding since 2000. Day won the 2008 election with 58 percent of the vote. Rebagliati was the sole candidate in the Liberal primary in 2009, and was campaigning in anticipation of the Liberal majority calling a federal election.

"It was a huge time commitment. I was a candidate for a year and I gave it a solid run," Rebagliati said. "Being a candidate is a volunteer position. Most candidates are older, more established career-wise and can afford to spend that much time running as a candidate."

While Rebagliati lived in the riding during his campaign, he and his wife, Alexandra, have returned to Whistler with their young son. Rebagliati is pursuing real estate interests and was looking forward to getting out on the snow this season.