Q&A with OST’s Zach Temertzgolou
By AOA Communication Manager, Kristin Ellis – October 9th, 2019.
This interview concludes the series of Q&As with the members of the Ontario Ski Team. AOA decided to do these interviews so that younger athletes and their families could learn from our most experienced athletes still living in Ontario. AOA, of course, has another crop of older athletes on the NCAA circuit and 13 athletes on the National Ski Team (Para, Alpine & SX).
Zach is entering his 3rd year of FIS and in his first year on the Ontario Ski Team. He raced with the Georgian Peaks before joining the SOD Ski Team two seasons ago.
Q: First, congratulations on making the Team!
A: Thank you. It has been a goal of mine for quite some time, so I’m thrilled to be on it.
Q: Like so many of your teammates, you are taking a year off school to ski full time. Do you have a University acceptance on hold?
A: Yes, I deferred Queen’s Kinesiology. I also applied to a few Commerce programs and may reapply, and I will pursue options in the States as well on the NCAA circuit.
Q: Did you attend a sports school?
A: Yes, I attended Birchmount Park in Toronto in the Birchmount Exceptional Athlete Program (BEAP) for student-athletes. The teachers were very supportive, they worked with me and my challenging schedule. I followed behind the Woods boys (Harrison was on the OST), so this was a bit easier as the teachers understood the sport.
Q: And to apply to Kin I’m assuming you had to do the math & sciences route?
A: Yes two maths, two sciences and Kinesiology in grade 12 and strong marks for Queen’s!
Q: I know education is important to your family as both your parents’ are educators by profession. Are they both professors?
A: Yes teachers but not professors exactly. My dad is the VP of Teacher & Student Success at Thompson Educational Publishing and wrote the Grade 12 Kinesiology textbook the SODST and OST students took this past summer in Chile. My mom is a Health and Physical Education Lecture in the Masters of Teaching Program at OISE UofT. My parents are very supportive of me pursuing education and sport at the highest level.
Q: And you are likely writing your SATs this October with many other OST athletes?
A: Yes, I took an online prep course over the summer/fall to prepare.
Q: How exactly do all of you FIS athletes learn about this process of heading south to pursue school and ski racing?
A: I started learning about the process in grade 11 through my Guidance Counselor at Birchmount. I will get started soon on the NCAA applications that are due in January. I realize an athletic scholarship for skiing may be very hard to get but I am also chasing academic scholarships and then hope to join the ski teams if I’m accepted.
Q: Are your parents supportive of you studying in the States?
A: Yes, very much so.
Q: What about a summer job – did you have time for this?
A: No, not really. I focused on my dryland training and SAT prep, so my days were pretty full.
Q: Where do you work out?
A: I’m at home and at the UofT gym. In July I trained a bit with Ashley Campbell (also on OST) at UofT and the OST women’s coach, Cam Stephen, would supervise our workouts. The other days I’m in our home gym where we have a good set up. My sister and I helped my dad convert our garage into a fitness studio. I follow the program myself and Cam helps as well.
Q: You moved to the OST from the SODSki Team where you worked with Bebe and Taylor (T-Bone) for two years. How was that?
A: It was amazing. I learned a ton and thanks to Taylor’s focus and knowledge I realized I love the speed events, mostly the Super G but also DH.
Q: Is FIS Super G really different from U16SuperG?
A: Yes, I thought so. It felt like a whole new sport in FIS. The tracks are longer, steeper, especially in the west where Taylor took us.
Q: What was it like having Bebe as a coach?
A: He is the Yoda of ski racing. He knows so much and very motivating. He and Taylor were equally amazing.
Q: What was the highlight last season? If I recall correctly you had a solid season.
A: Yes it was a good season. I did best in the middle to the end of the season. I became more consistent and then in Nakiska Spring Series I was the 3rd Jr. in GS and got my best score.
Q: And now with the OST you’ve done two on-snow camps (Zach is talking to me just prior to the 3rd on snow camp). What did you think of the indoor facility in Germany?
A: It’s amazing. The snow is perfect, you can really trust the snow – or should I say ice. It is sheer ice, so consistent at least!
Q: Some people wonder if it is boring for the athletes?
A: It might seem like it, but when you are working on a task it is great to focus on that and just do it repeatedly. They do play some pretty bad music so by the end of the 2nd hour it is a bit hard to take.
Q: Like elevator music?
Q: Next time you’ll have to ask them to take your playlists.
A: Yes! Good idea.
Q: Do you train for 2-hour blocks twice a day in there?
A: Yes, you bring in 2 pairs of skis and sharpen them in-between the sessions.
Q: How are you liking the OST coaches so far?
A: Cam and Kip have been amazing, supportive, providing me with lots of feedback and helping me get my equipment prepped for the season and making the transition from SOD to OST seamless.
Q: Do you have defined goals for the season and beyond?
A: I’d like to be consistent all season, qualify for a 2nd run in a NorAm and hit the podium on the OCUP and Super Series circuits.
Q: And in the long run, where do you see yourself?
A: The next step is to qualify for a Division 1 NCAA school while pursuing a Kin or Business degree and one day I would love to ski for Canada.
Q: So if you had to pick a personal strength what would it be?
A: I am a hard worker, I love the challenge of working through difficult situations. I am determined and focused on overcoming obstacles. I am good at mentally moving on, and I tend not to worry about things I can not control. I look at what worked well and what didn’t, I learn from it and then move on.
Q: Now for the harder question – your weakness?
A: Well I have these mental superstitions that I really need to get rid of. For example, if I don’t give myself enough time for my warmup or it doesn’t go as I planned, that can throw me off.
Q: So rituals and routines are important to you. Isn’t this the case for a lot of athletes?
A: Yes, each athlete has to figure out what works best for them. I need to focus on what I can control and have a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. Meaning – taking on the challenge and not getting focused on what you can’t do.
Q: Sounds to me like you’ve worked with Dana Sinclair (Dana is the OST sport psychologist and one of Canada’s most sought after sport therapists). Is she helpful?
A: Yes and she’s incredible!
Q: Yes, she is. The team is lucky to have her support. How many times have you seen her?
A: So far twice but her office is super close to our house so she told me I could come see her anytime which I will do periodically throughout the season. She gives us strategies and assignments after each camp.
Q: The OST is really developing as a program with people like Dana and the CSIO supporting you. Do the team members recognize this?
A: Yes absolutely. I have watched the team over the years and always wanted to be on it. Now I am here I’m super impressed so far.
Q: And to the younger kids behind you, what would you say?
A: Well to me FIS felt like I was entering a whole different sport. No one seems to care if you DNF one run and then win the next. The pressure of U16 simply goes away. I guess I’d say to the next group treat each race like it is a new event and do not dwell on what is behind you, learn from it, and move on to the next race, always learning and growing.
To read the other OST interviews or to learn more about this team please visit alpineontario.ca/ontario-ski-team