“When I first got introduced to snowboarding, not many women participated, especially Asian girls," says Christina Tian, a grade 10 Vancouver resident with a very big goal.
The young snowboarder just won gold at the BC Provincials Snowboard Slopestyle Competition and is preparing for the BC Winter Games in Silverstar, Vernon and Jr Nationals tour at Winsport in Calgary. It is her hope that she can show future generations of Asian women that anyone regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity can participate in and enjoy the same sport.
"I wanted to set an example," Tian tells V.I.A. "which is significant for the fullest representation of the population.”
Tian fell in love with winter sports at six years old when she began skiing and figure skating. At age nine, she took up snowboarding to be more like her older sister but Tian says her love for the sport hasn't stopped growing ever since.
"Nothing can replace all the memories, friendships, and lessons I’ve learned," she shares. "I love snowboarding because of the freedom and adrenaline I get, which really sets it apart from other sports.”
She would watch professional snowboarders on YouTube and entered her first major competition with the encouragement of her family and friends who could see how passionate she was.
She began training with the Fraser Valley Snowboard Club every weekend in the winter to build her skill and is now currently part of the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club and the BC Provincial Development Program training with JP Fok and Bailey Birkkjaer at Whistler Blackcomb.
“There were many obstacles during training, including injuries, closures, and cancelled contests due to the COVID-19 pandemic," recalls Tian. "It has been a rough journey to get to where I am today. However, despite many struggles during training, I knew that all the hardships were worth it standing at the top of the podium.”
When the pandemic limited her access to ski resorts, Tian taught herself tricks at home by watching Snowboard Addiction videos and practicing on the trampoline with her jib board.
She had her work cut out for her, however. When the competition season resumed in 2021 it became clear that other competitors had found ways to prepare themselves physically and mentally as well.
Tian kept up a sporting spirit and viewed each competition as an opportunity for growth and self-improvement. By her second BC Provincial competition last year, she managed to land the number one spot in the under-15 category.
Diversity and representation in snowboarding is lacking
There are only 38 Canadian female Olympic snowboarders compared to 52 male athletes with Wikipedia pages. Tian has noticed the same pattern in her own competitions. Despite her wins, she was disturbed that there were only ten girls in the provincial competitions compared to 60 boys.
This month (March 2023) she was delighted that the number of women in the under-18 category had more than doubled to 21 female athletes but she was still the only Asian snowboarder.
Tian says she is proud of the growth in the sport but wants to continue to encourage more young women, especially Asian girls, to discover the sport.
She has trained and competed at more than 12 ski resorts in Canada and New Zealand and met top snowboarders worldwide, including Yi Ming Su, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, Darcy Sharpe, and a pioneer of developing Female Asian snow sports, Eileen Gu.
"Honestly, there is just no limit or boundaries where snowboarding can take you,” she says.