Reiter’s long journey finally reaches Olympics
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — For every Mikaela Shiffrin, there’s a Justin Reiter.
For every prodigy who conquers each obstacle with preternatural gifts, there’s a blue-collar journeyman who gets knocked down again and again and never gives up.
Well, in the case of Reiter, he did give up.
Reiter, a snowboard racer who is competing in parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom in the Sochi games, retired in 2010 after he narrowly missed making the Olympics for the second time.
He missed Torino because of a nagging tibia fibula injury. He missed Vancouver due to the nagging effects of a patella injury. He retired — “or quit, however you look at it,” he said — that year.
He tried to live a normal life — he worked several different jobs, got married, and started to move on.
But for Reiter, 33, who grew up in Summit County and now lives in Steamboat Springs, that life wasn’t fulfilling.
“Snowboarding has always been something where I put everything in, and while it sometimes hurts like hell and kicks your right in the gut — like missing both those Olympics — there’s something always that it gives back, and it feeds how I am and feeds my soul, fills me up,” Reiter said.
He reunited with his longtime coach, Theddo Remmelink, and they set out on the road to Sochi, with the overriding goal of having fun.
“The idea was to come back and not leave snowboarding on a bad note,” Reiter said. “When I left I was super depressed. I was super bummed out. I was angry. You never want to leave something like that.”
And he did have fun, despite not being part of an elite U.S. team — it doesn’t exist for snowboard racing as it does for alpine skiing, halfpipe snowboarding or snowboardcross — or having the notoriety of other winter sports.
“I’m on my own when I’m on the road,” he said. “I coach myself, I tech for myself. I won that silver medal at world championships on my own with no coach, no tech, no support, no doctors, no PTs. It was hugely gratifying and that’s something that should be respected. Because there’s not a lot of people in the world that can do that. … I’m hoping something similar can happen here.”
Reiter had two top-four finishes on the World Cup circuit last season, in addition to the silver at Worlds. He came into Sochi this season with a podium finish in the last race before the Olympics.
In the five months leading up the Games, he lived out of his truck, nicknamed “Grayson Steele” in Park City, Utah, so he could focus full-time on training.
He chose to devote himself full-time to racing when he was 18. He grew up in Summit County doing all kinds of snowboarding, including halfpipe, with Team Summit.
He attended Silverthorne Elementary School, Dillon Valley Elementary School, Summit Middle School and Summit High School, from which he graduated in 1999.
He’ll need to perform well in 10 runs in order to win gold — two qualifying runs and eight head-to-head races in a bracket format. Reiter competes Wednesday in the giant slalom and Saturday in the slalom.
Remmelink, who has coached Reiter for 11 years, arrived in Sochi a couple days ago, and on Sunday he and Reiter went up to the top of the Rosa Khutor ski resort to have a cup of tea.
“We just reminisced about the journey,” Reiter said. “We worked together for over 10 years in an attempt to get here, coming up short twice. We made it, and now let’s go get a medal.”