Wengen : The Gage Ferguson Story

Thinking back to the initial conversation I had in early December with Keith Bradford, Communications Director at Alpine Canada, it’s hard to believe that all of the pieces fell into place to make the race weekend in Wengen such a remarkable success. Now is probably a great time to bring you up to speed on what exactly I am talking about. Back in late November, arguably one of my biggest fans, 8-year old Gage Ferguson, posted a video message on Facebook wishing me good luck for my upcoming World Cup slalom race in Beaver Creek, Colorado. His message was simple but extremely sincere. He wanted me to be the best I could be, and ski faster than everyone else. In a follow-up e-mail from Gage’s mom Jenn, she wrote that Gage was wondering why I didn’t have a sponsor on my helmet, and how come he couldn’t be my sponsor. It was a cute gesture from a young boy, and I’m pretty sure that’s as far as both Gage and Jenn thought it would go...
Gage's Letter

For days after I received that e-mail, I couldn’t stop thinking about Gage’s inquisition. I needed to try and make it happen. At least give it a shot. I remember the phone call with Keith vividly, and before the conversation had come to an end, the two of us had basically built on each other’s ideas and came up with this grand vision of not only granting Gage his wish, but getting him and his family over to watch the race as well. Like I said earlier, it was a lofty idea, and quite frankly, I figured it would take a miracle for all of the pieces to fall into place.

I left it with Keith for a few weeks while I focused on my races, and when we touched base again; the concept had started to turn into a reality. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Alpine Canada’s newest sponsor was in; they offered to provide the Ferguson’s flights over to Zurich. The International Ski Federation (FIS) was on board; approving the idea to have Gage be my sponsor for the slalom race in Wengen, Switzerland. The foundations were being laid. This thing was snowballing.

Brad Spence with his new sponsor, Gage Ferguson - Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada

On December 23rd, Alpine Canada and I had a press conference in Calgary at Canada Olympic Park, where we surprised Gage with not only the announcement that I would grant him his wish to be my sponsor for a race, but that Gage and his family would be flying to Switzerland to watch the race in person.

  • VIEW THE VIDEO on Alpine Canada's YouTube that was played prior to Gage entering the press conference.
  • READ THE FULL STORY on Alpine Canada's website.
  • VIEW THE VIDEO on Alpine Canada's YouTube that captured the highlights.
  • VIEW THE PHOTO ALBUM of the December 23rd Press Conference on Alpine Canada's Facebook Page (Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael / Alpine Canada).
*Brad Spence with his new sponsor, Gage Ferguson at Canada Olympic Park, Calgary, AB
Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada

Brad Spence gets a hug from Gage Ferguson after his 1st run in Wengen - Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael / Alpine Canada

When race day finally rolled around in Wengen, I was really excited to don my new Gage Ferguson branded helmet and hopefully put on a career best performance for Gage. I knew as I crossed the finish line that my run wasn’t spectacular, but the first person I saw in the finish was Gage, and the smile on his face is something I will not soon forget. He ran over to me and wrapped his arms around me and said “Whoa that was cool! You did so well!”.

As an athlete, and fierce competitor at that, it can be easy to lose sight of what else is out there besides racing down the mountain faster than the other competitors. Often it can be quite tough to pull the positives from a subpar performance, but in this particular moment, a rush of joy poured over me. I was sharing a moment of pure elation with Gage, while he was experiencing something he will not soon forget.

*Brad Spence gets a hug from his new sponsor Gage Ferguson after his 1st run in Wengen, SUI
Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada

Gage Ferguson cheers on Brad Spence from the bottom of the hill. - Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael / Alpine Canada

 

After the first run, I was sitting in 30th place – meaning I would start 1st in the second run. As I was going through my pre-race warm up at the top of the hill, I heard the announcer and 20,000+ crowd of people abuzz at the bottom of the hill. I learned later that the crowd was going wild because the TV screens at the bottom of the hill was showing Gage (Canada flag and cowbell in hand), and by this point he’d turned into a local hero.

 

*Gage Ferguson cheers on Brad Spence from the bottom of the hill at Wengen, SUI
Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada

Brad Spence represents Canada with Gage Ferguson in the leaders box when finished his 2nd run in Wengen, SUI - Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael / Alpine Canada

I pushed out of the start gate and charged down the hill with a second run I am quite pleased with. Gage met me again in the finish area with a big hug, and the two of us got to stand in the leaders box in front of the TV cameras together for five racers until my teammate Mike Janyk came down and took the lead. At the end of the day I finished in 21st position. A little bit off the mark of the top-10 result I was looking for, but a positive day nonetheless.

*Brad Spence represents Canada with Gage Ferguson in the leaders box when finished his 2nd run in Wengen, SUI
Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada

Brad Spence and Gage Ferguson in one of several media interviews.

After the race, Gage and I were met with a flurry of media attention. Television crews from Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Norway wanted to hear the story of young Gage, as well as reporters from a wide array of origins, including reporters from the Globe and Mail and the New York Times.

*Brad Spence and Gage Ferguson in one of several media interviews. in Wengen, SUI
Photo Credit: Jenn Ferguson

Gage Ferguson waiting to board KLM Airlines Flight in Amsterdam.

To be honest, I wanted to make this whole project happen to show Gage just how far an act of kindness can take you, and the importance of dreaming big. I had no idea the impact that this story would have on the Sporting World and fans alike. The feedback has been overwhelming to say the least, and I am so incredibly proud of Gage. Obviously none of this would have happened without the help of Alpine Canada and the generous support of KLM. My hat goes off to all of those who made it possible.

*Gage Ferguson waiting to board KLM Airlines Flight in Amsterdam
Photo Credit: Jenn Ferguson

 

Your friend,

Brad

Brad Spence and Gage Ferguson - Wengen, SUI - Sponsorship Memories

Brad Spence and Gage Ferguson - Sponsorship Memories - Wengen, SUI - 2012
Photo Credit: Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada

Written on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 00:00 by Brad Spence

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