FINDING SUCCESS AFTER WHISTLER CUP
BY DAN FALLOON
Sam Mulligan isn’t a Whistler local, but coming from the Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski Club, he’s not that far off.
Mulligan, a veteran of five Whistler Cup festivals instead of four (benefitting from a FIS age change for the 2012-13 season), won four medals at the Whistler Cup, including giant slalom gold in 2013.
His fondest memories, however, involve breakfast.
“I always liked the breakfast up there. You’d get the early load and get that nice Fresh Tracks breakfast,” he said with a laugh. “That was always a highlight for me as a kid—just pig out before going to race.”
Of course, winning a race at Whistler Cup was a major stepping stone for Mulligan en route to his young World Cup career.
“Looking back, it doesn’t seem as big of a deal but in the moment, you feel like it’s the most important thing in the world. At the time, I was super happy to show that I could do well and it gave me hope about moving forward, that I one day would have the chance to compete at a higher level,” he said.
Mulligan, 22, now boasts a FIS Junior World Ski Championships silver medal from the 2018 downhill race. The winner was none other than another Whistler Cup alum from Mulligan’s years in Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, who recently hit the podium in two late-season World Cup races. Mulligan said it’s always exciting to see Europe’s best come to his backyard, especially in a sport that so commonly revolves around Europe.
“It was always an exciting time of year because when you’re young, it was for sure the biggest race of the year,” Mulligan recalled during a break from the Canadian Alpine Ski Championships in late March. “We’d always look forward to it. It was always at the end of the season and it was exciting to see what teams were going to be there, from which countries and seeing a bunch of new kids.”
With a half-dozen years of wisdom gained from his final Whistler Cup until now, Mulligan has garnered some perspective on his roots in the sport. Success at this age isn’t the be-all, end-all for champions—and neither is failure for those who struggle.
“Ski racing takes a long time. There are people who have had success at Whistler Cup, like the Marcel Hirschers that have gone on to be superheroes right away,” said Mulligan. “There are just as many or more people who had no success and they’re also the ones winning the World Cups today.
“Enjoy the competition, but it’s not the end of the world either way. If you win at that level, you have to work very hard to keep winning. If you’re not there yet, it’s not game over.”
Now as a young gun on an up-and-coming Canadian alpine team, Mulligan still goes back a long way with many of his teammates, as he raced alongside Whistler Mountain Ski Club alums Riley Seger and Jack Crawford at the Whistler Cup.
“We have a great group of people I’ve been skiing with since I was at Whistler Cup,” he said. “No matter what’s been happening, it’s been fun to share this with really good friends.”