I received a text from Mari at 4 am, Saturday morning on March 10th 2012. Her text simply said, “Something horrible has happened”.
At that time the rest of the team was in Grindelwald, Switzerland frantically rushing around in a panic and Niko was getting lifted to the hospital in Innsbruck, Switzerland. Things did not look good. Nik had fallen just to the right side of the finish jump, caught his boots in the fencing, and tumbled to a stop shortly after. He was instantly knocked out. Nik passed away soon after in hospital with Dave Ellis by his side. All we can do is pray that he felt no pain and his passing was peaceful.
I am still in total disbelief that Nik is gone. He will never again be waiting for us in the airport on the way to Europe, he will never be encouraging us out for drinks, he will never be asking the server “What’s your favorite thing on the menu?”.
But, he will forever bring smiles to the faces of those he influenced with his witty sense of humor, charming good looks, and overall amazing personality. Nik wasn’t just a teammate, he was someone I looked up to. He was a friend, family, a brother.
Nik had jumps like a gazelle when it came to fitness testing, but as soon as you put him on a trampoline, he was useless. We did a lot of gymnastics last summer for training and I have never laughed at him so hard in my life as I did when I watched him try to tackle the tramps. Something just didn’t click for him and he was totally awkward, rigid, and uncoordinated. While the other boys like Brady and Stan were working on double back flips, Nik would be working on bum and back drops. Extremely easy tasks for most 5 year olds. In every other sport, Nik was very talented…golf, tennis, skiing, cards. Ok, I lied. He wasn’t very good at mountain biking either but that’s understandable since Ontario doesn’t have much for mountains.
I get sad thinking about the small things with Nik. The way he would pull his hair back out of his face, the way he walked with his bowed legs, the way he would go off on tangents about meaningless topics. He was hilarious and found humor in things that others did not. I don’t even think he was trying to be funny, it was just the way he was. Ladies loved him and I believe that nearly everyone he met fell in love with him. How couldn’t you.
Nik passed away at 29 years old in an accident that never should have happened. At no point in sport should a mistake cost a life. These are things that are going to be picked apart and hopefully improved urgently. It’s so unfortunate that Nik had to sacrifice his life to open up the eyes of so many.
Our team will never feel the same without Nik. He brighten our stormy days. My only regret was not letting Nik know how highly I thought of him and how much I looked up to him. He would laugh at me if I did tell him and that was just the way he was. But I think what I have learned from this is that you can’t take the people around you for granted. If you love them, tell them everyday. And, if you hate them, maybe just don’t waste your days with those people. Regarless, live your life to the fullest each day, leave nothing on the table, and fall asleep ach night with no regrets. If you pass away tomorrow be confident that the people you love know that they hold a special place in your heart, and that you have done as much as humanly possible to live a happy and fulfilled life.
I will love and miss you forever Nik, rest easy!