Alexa Loo trades in her snowboard for the new challenges of politics and motherhood
By Laureen McMahon
The B.C. Catholic
VANCOUVER--Alexa Loo’s snowboard is in safe storage. The famed Olympic snowboarder is about to give birth to her first child!
“She or he will be born right when the slopes open for the winter, so I might not go snowboarding this year!” said Loo with a laugh.
The eight-time Canadian snowboarding champion and three-time World Cup medalist, who placed 12th in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, is not only embracing impending motherhood, she has also thrown her helmet in the ring for a seat on Richmond City Council.
Married at St. Joseph the Worker Church shortly after the Winter Olympics ended, the Richmond-born Loo wants to transfer her skills as a world-class champion and athletes’ advocate to community politics “to make Richmond a happy, healthy, and safe place to raise children.”
She does have political experience, although mostly of the sports variety.
After the Olympic committee approved snowboarding for the 1998 Winter Games, Loo missed the Canadian team: “a huge learning experience.” But it was her 2002 disqualification in snowboarding trials that left her frustrated about the lack of information among athletes and coaches.
“Four Austrian snowboarders had already qualified, the limit for one country, when I did my run,” said Loo. “Then another Austrian whose time was better than mine was allowed in, which was a huge mistake. I didn’t know this until later, so I decided that I could either sit around crying ‘boo-hoo’ or I could try to make it better. My focus became to improve the sport to attract more people, frustrate fewer people, and result in better outcomes.”
Loo also went into action to help solve the chronic underfunding of Canadian athletic programs. She was elected to the board of AthletesCAN, a Canadian athletes advocacy and leadership group.
“We followed the examples of athletes from other countries who successfully persuaded their governments to fund programs,” said Loo.
“Through well-thought-out policies and government lobbying, our board presented to the House of Commons Finance Committee and the Minister of Sport and secured a $7 million per year increase in funding to national team athletes in Canada beginning in 2004. It positioned us for the 2010 Olympics and taught me how to work within organizations to achieve goals.”
During all the ups and downs that go with pursuing athletic excellence at the Olympic level, including the inevitable injuries of a high-risk sport, Loo says she often turned to her religious faith for strength.
“I would say my spiritual life is integral to my sport, political, and family life,” she told The B.C. Catholic.
After graduating from high school, where she served on the Richmond Youth Council, Loo studied accounting at UBC and joined the varsity rowing and swim teams. In 1994 she began articling to earn her chartered accounting degree. Along the way she took up snowboard racing, and soon realized she was really good at it.
“As an Olympian, I learned that nearly any goal can be achieved through hard work. Our communities must create policies which aim higher so that more people are served better and we are the best we can be.”
Loo wants zoning laws that create neighbourhoods with a better mix of dwellings and green community spaces.
“We are seeing neighbourhoods subdivided without attention to parking and creating spaces that create community.
“My vision is to do small things which have a big payoff. As an accountant, I want to ensure businesses are supported and that we attract new business to give people the chance to work and live in their own community.”