From the crazy 720-degree flips he performs on trampolines to incredible jumps on the mountain, one thing is clear about U of T snowboarder Jonah Cantelon — the kid can fly. He was recently selected to be one of the nine snowboarders representing Canada at the 2023 Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU) games, where he will be the only representative from U of T. The Varsity interviewed Jonah to figure out what makes him tick.
Cantelon grew up in Abu Tor in Jerusalem, which he described as “not a place that’s known for its snow.” He then moved to Eastern Townships, Québec, an area that didn’t have a snow park. His achievements are great considering that the odds were stacked against him.
Jonah started taking snowboarding seriously when he moved to a mountainous area in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts Québec at eight years old. He reminisced on this time in his life with a sort of sentimentality, growing up in what seemed to be a snowboarding haven.
“I grew up riding [on this local ski hill] every weekend, missing school sometimes,” said Cantelon in an interview with The Varsity.
When asked about what made him gravitate to the thrilling slopestyle and big air events he competes in, he described his early inspirations, saying, “[Growing up] we didn’t have internet where I lived, so I didn’t watch much of the snowboard world but, we had one movie at home, which was The Art of Flight, which is the greatest snowboard movie of all time starring Travis Rice, so he was definitely a big inspiration for me.”
When asked about his snowboarding evolution, a smile grew on Cantelon’s face as he stated, “For me, though, the biggest thing was that I loved snowboarding and I loved doing flips. My mom is a gymnast, and she taught my brothers and me how to do flips at a very young age, so I thought I may as well do the two together because it was really fun.”
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The FISU games
Cantelon is representing the University of Toronto at the FISU games, and he is the only Canadian competing in the slopestyle event. “I have never competed in an event as high profile and mainstream as this [the FISU games],” he explained. “I want to do my best, whatever that may be. If it puts me on the podium, that’d be great… I’m not looking for a result. However, a good result is always the goal.”
Snowboarding competitions are foreign to many, so Cantelon summed up the Difficulty Amplitude Variety and Execution slopestyle judging system for those who wish to follow the FISU games with greater insight.
The difficulty component, he said, “is pretty straightforward. It’s just how hard your tricks are.” Regarding the amplitude component, “[The judges] love to see people going big. You don’t want to barely make it over the landing. You want that wow factor!” The variety component, he stressed, “is definitely the hardest component because every [boarder] has a preferred direction to spin, and [the judges] want to see spins [in alternating order in different directions] on both jumps and rails.” Finally, he described the execution component as landing and executing everything neatly without errors.
Cantelon’s favourites from his bag of tricks include the frontside 360 degrees, tame dogs — essentially a sideways frontflip — and his hardest trick, the front triple fourteen — three flips and four complete rotations. With these at his disposal, Cantelon can surely produce an outstanding performance at the upcoming games.
The hardships and allure of his life as a student athlete
After hearing the accounts of his preparations for the FISU games, it’s hard not to appreciate the rigorous training regiments that student athletes like Cantelon must go through to fulfill their goals. Cantelon spent this past summer working, training and living at Maximise, a training facility located in the Laurentian Mountains of Québec. During the offseason, he practiced on the synthetic snow surface available at Maximise, jumping into a massive airbag — an activity that is truly a sight to behold. Cantelon continued his intense training in the fall, which introduced a weekly six-hour commute from Toronto to Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Québec. What would be a nightmare for many didn’t faze Cantelon.
When he’s not flying through the air, Cantelon is a second-year philosophy student. When asked whether athletics felt like a hassle or a positive break from school, he said, “It’s definitely a break from school; I love both, though.” Cantelon is pursuing a degree specializing in philosophy, emphasizing his passion for academics and athletics. He described both as “equally life giving.” Cantelon elaborated, saying, “Snowboarding allows me to be grounded in my education while getting to travel the whole world competing in really cool places!”
He maintains that U of T has been beneficial to his snowboarding career in many ways, describing the many resources he has access to as a student athlete, which make his busy life more manageable.
Cantelon concluded the interview on an inspiring note to any athlete hesitant to pursue athletics at the University of Toronto due to the difficulties they may encounter, saying, “U of T does a great job helping out student athletes, it’s been a really wonderful experience, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.”