KIRBY – Starting on the sometimes snowy hills in Kirby, and moving on to the mountain tops of the world, Matthew Morison of Burketon has qualified for a spot on Canada’s Olympic alpine snowboard team. A member of the Oshawa Ski Club (OSC) in Kirby since he was just six years old, Morison grew up skiing and then snowboarding at the local club, along with his father Paul, and his older brother Chance.
It was as an OSC snowboarding team member that Morison worked his way to the top of the provincial ranks, before being scouted by the Canadian national team. Needless to say, his local fan base has grown even larger since he joined the World Cup circuit three years ago, where he competes in Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom (PGS) snowboarding events.
Many long-time members of OSC have memories of Morison’s abilities on the slopes. Mark Rutherford, OSC General Manager, said, “I can remember Matt at a very young age. Even then, his skill and balance on a snowboard was remarkable. He stood out among the other kids, and it didn’t surprise me when we started to see his incredible results in the FIS World Cup circuit.”
Rutherford said that members of the Oshawa Snow Racing Club Alpine Snowboarding team were grateful for the opportunity to ride with Morison recently, when he was back at the local club over the Christmas holidays with his father Paul. “It was great to see Matt out,” he said. “We are all very proud of his achievements, and will be watching and cheering for him during the 2010 Olympics.”
This season started out promising for Morison, as he won a gold medal at the FIS World Cup PGS event in Limone Piemonte, Italy in December, 2008. His success continued in January of this year, as he brought home the bronze at the 2009 FIS Snowboard World Championships in Gangwon, South Korea. At the FIS World Cup tour stop in Bayrischzell, Germany, at the end of January, Morison was on the podium once more, taking the silver.
Then in February, at the FIS stop in Stoneham, Quebec, Morison fell in the first run of the initial round. Suffering a broken bone in his wrist, he finished tenth. Then on March 22, in the last race of the 2009 World Cup calendar, in Valmalenco, Italy, he came in fifth, qualifying for a “priority selection” spot on the Canadian Snowboard Federation’s (CSF) 2010 Olympics nomination list.
According to the CSF, PGS riders need to win either the World Championships, or the Cypress Mountain World Cup, or to acquire three Top 5 results in the selection period in order to qualify for priority selection in the nomination process. Morison just managed to win his third Top 5 in that final race.
Despite his injury, Morison finished the season ranked sixth in the Men’s PGS Top 10. He placed ninth in the Men’s Snowboarding Overall Top 10 rankings.
Top 10 rankings are not the only cause for celebration lately. Last week, General Motors of Canada announced that Morison and his coach Mark Fawcett will receive a $10,000 High Performance Grant as part of the car company’s Making Dreams Possible program. It is the third year in a row that the pair has received the grant. The coaching money will allow Morison to join Fawcett and the rest of the CSF team in Vancouver over the summer months. Summer training is an expensive but necessary requirement if Morison is to keep in top form for the 2010 Winter Olympics, also in Vancouver.
Back home, his OSC and GM connections are part of what endears him to local supporters. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all worked at GM in Oshawa. And when he’s not snowboarding, Morison shares in a love of other locally popular recreational activities. Having grown up on a 50-acre farm, he enjoys riding his quarterhorse, riding his mountain bike, and his dirt bike, and fishing. On his CSF biography, he lists his other interests as “girls, trucks, my dog.” His nickname, Maverick, was earned in part because he listens to country music exclusively, rather than the rap and hardcore typically favoured by his contemporaries.
Aside from his Olympic qualifications, his FIS Top 10 rankings, and his coaching grant, Morison has yet another reason to celebrate. Next week is his birthday. Even as he turns 22-years old, he remains the youngest competitor in the PGS Top 10. But he can rest assured that if adding another candle will make things a bit too crowded on his birthday cake, it’s now confirmed that five linked rings will fit just perfectly.