VANCOUVER – He was probably the least heralded of Canada’s 2010 Olympic medallists, a quiet, low-key kid from Canmore, Alta., who took the silver medal in men’s snowboard cross.
Even now, the name of Mike Robertson is likely to leave many people scratching their heads.
He was 25 with just 31 World Cup starts and only two podium finishes to his credit when he made that surprising appearance in the four-boarder final at Cypress Mountain in February 2010.
On Tuesday, having not started another World Cup since then because of a series of concussions, he announced his retirement.
“I would have loved to represent Canada at another Olympics,” the lanky Albertan said in a release. “I didn’t want an injury to end my career, but after two years of struggling with concussion symptoms and trying to recover again and again, I had to make the best decision for my long-term health.”
Robertson had his first diagnosed concussion in 2008. He believes he had another in 2009 that went undiagnosed and then sustained another one two weeks after the Olympics that sidelined him for a month.
He was concussed again in September 2010 while with teammates at a training camp in New Zealand.
“It was just like really bad headaches, dizziness,” he said in an interview a few months later. “I wasn’t able to work out or do anything for two-and-a-half months. I was basically just sitting in my basement. I couldn’t read a book, couldn’t concentrate on a computer.”
He got back on snow in January 2011 and competed early the next month in the Legendary Banked Slalom at Mt. Baker in Washington state. But later that month, he sustained a light impact concussion while boarding in deep, backcountry powder.
Last December, while still experiencing concussion symptoms, he wrote a piece for the Canadian Sport Centre in Calgary in which he said he was never fully healed each time he returned. A neuropsychologist determined he was suffering from “clear cognitive damage.
“Looking back on my experience, I believe that my recovery was mismanaged and not taken seriously . . . until now. It only took me coming back too early three times to realize this. Since my head injuries, Canada Snowboard has started to do baseline neurological testing with its athletes and have established a better return-to-sport protocol.
“These are all good steps for the safety of athletes in the future and every national sport organization should adopt these types of practices.”
In addition to Robertson, Canada Snowboard also announced the retirements of 13-year snowboard cross veteran Francois Boivin of Jonquiere, Que., and Dan Csokonay of Canmore, who had just 10 World Cup starts in three injury-plagued years on the national team.