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It ends where it all started. Right here in Davos. In 1996 a quiet, shy, pimple pocked, braces wearing DJ, Skate, Snowboarder punk won his first major title only meters from where this piece is being penned. It was a Swiss Championships. And his name was Gian Simmen. To celebrate the man, and his last official contest here at the O’Neill Evolution, Gian has organized a ‘Legends Session’ – and legendary it was.
Talking about Gian makes me smile. You see, I met Gian in the back of a bus as the Ballantines Urban Air event in Vallencia, Spain, back in 1996. Rarely had I ever met such a shy and introverted person, sitting alone with himself, massive earphones wrapping his head, where all attempts to motivate him were acknowledged by a shy, braces filled grimace that merely confirmed my belief he didn’t understand a single word I’d just spoken. Later I’d the chance to see him ride – not bad, but not exceptional. Only a couple of month’s later, Gian won the first Halfpipe Olympic gold medal in Nagano in 1998… and I couldn’t help but think, “Great. The kid doesn’t talk at all… What an outstanding spokesperson for snowboarding we’ve just created.” I’m not scared to say that many people in the know – thought exactly the same thing.
Whereas, being unceremoniously thrown into the unforgiving mainstream media spotlight, especially in snow sports crazy Switzerland, may have seen a lesser person melt under the pressure, it was not the case with Gian. Instead, he matured in a heartbeat, and has gone on to be one of the most amazing ambassadors the sport has ever produced. Hands down. Anyone who has had the chance to meet and speak with the man knows that Gian developed into a highly intelligent, respectful and dedicated protagonist for snowboarding – equally approachable by a young fan with pen and poster searching for a signature, or being interviewed live in a news studio. Gian has tirelessly worked for the benefit of snowboarding at it’s core, the Swiss scene if not the sport in general is better off because of his heart, energy and passion.
On Saturday afternoon here at the O’Neill Evolution in Davos, a location steeped in the history of the sport its self, Gian has called a ‘Legends Session’ inviting one of the craziest lists of the sport’s past to join him for his Testimonial fair well as he celebrates his last competitive outing.