Individually Ken Read, Steve Podborski, Dave Irwin and Dave Murray reigned over the world of downhill skiing during the mid 70s and into the early 80s. Together they were a cultural phenomenon known as the Crazy Canucks; a team of world class and reckless skiers who were the first to challenge the Europeans for downhill supremacy in the sport they'd dominated for decades.
Never was there a more exciting time in the world of downhill skiing for Canadians. The Crazy Canucks earned a total of 107 top 10 World Cup finishes from 1978 to 1984, 39 of which were top 3. This was the golden era of skiing for Team Canada, when four relatively unknown skiers from across the country launched into international success.
The four men earned their moniker when they burst onto the scene of downhill skiing in 1976 with flair, speed, and more than their fair share of disastrous falls. After one such fall by Dave Irwin, Serge Lange dismissed the young Canadian as a "crazy canuck". Lange, renowned ski journalist of the era, would later realize he had given the four men a nickname that would follow them for the rest of their careers.
Read, born in Ann Arbor Michigan, was the first to make his presence known on the World Cup circuit. In February of 1978 he became the first non-European skier to win a World Cup downhill event. Before retiring from competition in 1983, after 10 years as a Crazy Canuck, Read had appeared on the World Cup podium 14 times with 5 wins. Since then, the two-time Olympian has built a successful event management company while staying active in the Canadian sports world by serving with the Canadian Olympic Association since 1981. In 1991, the Calgary resident was named to the Order of Canada. Ken, a father of three, returned to the world of skiing in 2002 when he was appointed President of Alpine Canada where he has helped lead a resurgence of Canadian downhill talent on the international scene.
Podborski, a Toronto native, was Ken Read's biggest competition as a Crazy Canuck. Podborski earned 20 World Cup podium finishes between 1978 and 1984. Podborski raced in two Olympics, winning a bronze medal at the 1980 Games. The following year he made history when he became the first non-European to win the World Cup Downhill Championship title. After the 1984 Winter Olympics, Steve retired, the last of the Crazy Canucks to bow out of competition. Since leaving the competitive arena, Podborski has worked with the Canadian Olympic Association, and has sat on the organizing committee of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He has been an Olympic skiing commentator with NBC Sports for both the 2002 and 2006 Winter Games.
Irwin, born in the small town of Thunder Bay ON, was considered the loose cannon of the Crazy Canucks. A speedster who was known for his spectacular falls, Irwin was also a strong competitor, making nine top 10 finishes before retiring from competition in 1981. His lone win on the World Cup circuit stunned critics and supporters alike when in 1975 he beat Austrian Franz Klammer by an astonishing 1.61 seconds, ending Klammers year and a half long domination atop the World Cup podium. Since retiring Dave, a father of two, has lived with his family in Canmore, Alberta. He currently acts as the Chairman of the Dave Irwin Foundation for Brain Injury, a charitable organization he founded in 2002 following his remarkable survival and continued recovery from a brain injury he suffered in 2001. The goal of the foundation is to raise funding and awareness for brain injury, a cause very near to Dave.
Dave Murray (deceased)
Murray, a Vancouver native, earned three World Cup podium finishes before retiring in the same year as his friend and teammate, Dave Irwin. Beloved by the skiing community in Whistler, BC Dave returned to his native province and eventually founded the Dave Murray Ski School in 1988. Over 15 years later, the school that bears Murray's namesake has become one of the most renowned ski schools in Canada, attracting visitors from across the nation. Murray passed away in October of 1990 at age 37.
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