When you’ve reached the pinnacle of your sport, what happens next?
For some Canadian Olympic gold medallists, you simply go back for more.
“I don’t have to defend it. It’s in my house, I have it on my mantle, it’s not going away,” said 2018 ski halfpipe champion Cassie Sharpe. “So I’m not defending anything, but I’m definitely going out there fighting for that podium.”
“It’s bonus time,” added ski cross champion Brady Leman.
Sharpe and Leman are among many Canadian Olympic champions returning for the Beijing Games, alongside snowboarder Sébastien Toutant, bobsledder Justin Kripps, curler Kaitlyn Lawes, skier Mikaël Kingsbury, speed skater Ted-Jan Bloemen and more.
Each of those athletes will be featured in CBC Sports’ Returning Champions video series, beginning Thursday with Toutant and running throughout the month of January.
WATCH | Returning Champions: Sébastien Toutant:
Toutant, the 29-year-old from L’Assomption, Que., experienced the lowest of lows and highest of highs in Pyeongchang, where he placed last in slopestyle before claiming victory in big air.
“There’s a lot of people out there that only get one shot and I was there for slopestyle and big air so I was like, ‘Look, you get a second shot at it. Either you’re negative and it’s over or you use that energy to get back at it and get a medal in big air,'” Toutant said.
“I won a gold medal, and it’s the best feeling ever.”
While Toutant is intent on defending his big air gold, he’s more focused on slopestyle redemption.
“Slopestyle is one of those things I’d like to put a run together,” he said.
Early returns for Sharpe, of Comox, B.C., have been steady despite being shut out of medals over three World Cup races thus far.
“I’m trying to allow myself to take the pressure off and have fun and go and represent Canada in a really fun and exciting way. My approach is that if I’m having fun and enjoying myself, that’s when I’m performing my best.”
It made 2018’s triumph all the sweeter.
“I dreamed my whole life of winning an Olympic gold medal and trained and worked for it knowing full well that it probably wouldn’t happen,” Leman said.
“But then it did. And so now I get to do something that even fewer athletes get to experience in their career, and that’s to try to defend an Olympic gold medal. So just trying to embrace it with open arms and take it all as it comes.”
Kripps, 34, competed at the 2010 Olympics as a brakeman before taking on his own sled.
The mindset for 2022 remains the same.
“I’m going in the same way I went into the last one. I want to stand on the starting block and know that I’ve done everything I possibly could to prepare for that moment and just let it rip.”