This sport is steep in history in all four of the AOA Divisions and we really should talk about these legends more.
When we decided to feature a legendary family in the Soo two families immediately came to mind – The Mealey Family and the Real Brothers. Both are still heavily involved in the Searchmont Ski Runners which is amazing. We’re sorry we only caught up with 2 of the 3 brothers but the amazing photos make up for it! A walk down memory lane with Bill & Bob Real.
Q1: Where did you grow up? What ski club? What age did you start ski racing? (that’s Bob on the right in the gates)
BILL: We grew up in Sault Ste. Marie and started skiing/racing with the Searchmont Ski Runners when I was 4.
BOB: Same but I was 5.
Q2: What level did you get to in ski racing? Biggest event, best result, discipline, etc?
BILL: I raced on the NOD team, attended the Canadian Championships then made it to the Nor-Am Circuit.
BOB: I raced in the World Junior Championships and was 11th GS, then on to the Europa cup circuit with a 12th
finish in the DH Innsbruck, Austria. Canadian Champs Junior-1st GS. 1st SL and Canada Winter Games-SL 1st, GS 1st, SG 2nd (photo:Bob at the CanWinter games)
Q3: Did you coach? What level, etc…
BILL: I coached for a total of 18 years including at our club, with the SOD team, Ontario Ski Team, LSDA Team and eventually with the Canadian team
BOB: Coaching currently. Entry level.
(photo: Gord Acton and Jeff Armstrong in this race) .
Q4: What do you do for a living now? Where do you live?
BILL: I live outside of SSM and work in television production covering
live TV i.e. sports, concerts
Q5: I’m told you are back in the sport with young kids….
BILL: Yes 2 young boys 5 yr old (Bobby) 8 yr old (Brady) and yes they too love to ski.
BOB: 3 young kids. Ski racers. 8, 4, 1.
Q6: Are you involved in the ski club at Searchmont? If so how?
BILL: I’m a volunteer coach, on the SSR and on the NOD board
BOB: Yes. On the board of directors. Volunteer coach.
Q7: How would you say Canada is doing today compared with your time racing developing athletes, promoting the sport, etc?
BILL: Canada does not have the same athlete base as we did before and you need the base to push up the top level. The fact that ski racing is not on tv as it was is an issue.
BOB: Canada always has a group in the top 15, men and women. The skier cross team is extremely good, Canada has done a great job getting to the top of a new event.
Q8: Ski racing in Ontario is SOD focused based on population. Is it harder for smaller regions to produce an elite athlete? What are the challenges you club faces?
BILL: No it is not harder to produce an elite athlete in NOD but we don’t have the numbers to race with so we have to leave NOD to find athletes (races) to compete with. We’re big fans of more races with all division at all levels….. OCUP!
BOB: SOD has the population base and the financial support. They just use the tools they have. More racers, more volunteers, more races, more competition, bigger programs. We don’t have the population base to have a large program. There are small groups and travel to races is far in the North. We lose kids earlier because of our location and the cost.
Q9: Who is the best racer you’ve ever seen over the years and why?
BILL: Alberto Tomba, Bode Miller. They were exciting racers with big personalities so even people who didn’t watch races wanted to know about them.
BOB: Bode Miller for his athleticism. Permin Zurbriggen-he was very focused and always rose to the occasion.
Q10: Whose is the best ski coach in your mind and why?
BILL: The same two coaches I had myself – Brian Mealey and Ulic Longford, who are still in my life.
BOB: Brian Mealey for hisgreat passion for the sport, Jim Pollock for hiscalm presence that can elevate athletes at big events and Ulic Longford who identifies and connects with the athlete and can get an athlete to perform above expectation.
This photo taken in 1972.