Randy Jones was an elementary school teacher in Summerland 20 years ago when he and then nine-year-old Justin Kripps first met, but even then he knew the youngster was destined for success.
A Grade 7 teacher at McDonald Elementary, Jones was working bus duty at the end of the day when their meeting happened.
At the time, Kripps, a skinny kid with long braided blonde hair down to his waist and avid skateboarder, was waiting for the final bus of the day.
“And like a lot of schools, were you allowed to skateboard on school property? No,” Jones told the crowded Summerland Secondary School gym as Kripps, 31, a bobsledding gold medalist at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, sat nearby smiling at the memory. “I could hear a skateboard. I look over and I see it’s Justin on a skateboard and I give him a look. I’m about to call him over and he goes ‘please Mr. Jones, please Mr. Jones I’ll stop.’ OK, stop.”
But five minutes later Jones hears a skateboard and it’s Kripps back again.
“He said ‘please Mr. Jones, please Mr. Jones’ and I said ‘Justin, I need your skateboard,’” recalled Jones. “If I took the skateboard he wouldn’t get it back till the next day and he said ‘what do I have to do?’”
A physical education teacher at the time, Jones told the boy to drop and give him 50 pushups.
“Justin dropped and gave me 50 perfect pushups. He jumped up and said ‘would you like 50 more?’ At that point I knew there was something special about this boy,” said Jones.
When it was his turn to talk to the students in the gym, Kripps spoke about his Olympic win, the work and his commitment and that of his teammates, coaches and sponsors but his real message was how to achieve success.
He talked about meeting many “successful” people since winning the medal — the prime minister, musicians, astronauts and billionaires — and what they all shared in common.
“Failure. It’s just that they all failed time and time again on the path of being successful,” said Kripps. “When you think about it failing seems like a failing of success. Failure is not the opposite of success. I realized failure lays the foundation of success. I realized it’s the failures that have brought me here.”
He added that not giving up is the route to success in any aspect of life.
Afterwards, Kripps spoke about the fun of coming home and visiting some of his favourite places when he was growing up.
“It’s really cool, the memories just start flooding back,” he said.”I was just down in Trout Creek, I spent a lot of time hanging out with my friends and Rotary Beach, just kind of driving by, it’s amazing.”
And about the best thing of being an Olympic gold medalist: “Handing it to a kid and watching his face light up when he feels how heavy it is, how shiny it is. That’s the greatest part about the job of being an Olympian. Inspiring the next generation.”