The world of cross-country sit-skiing is a small one. At the 2012 Canadian championships, only four women competed and at the 2013 World Championships in Sochi, Russia, there was 14 racers in the field.
For Revelstoke’s Emily Suchy, this has meant there has been almost no opportunities to race against other sit skiers. Aside from a practice race against fellow sit-skiers from across Canada at a training camp in Canmore, Alta., earlier this winter, she’s been either racing only against the clock, or against able-bodied girls who are a few years younger than her.
“It’s been kind of sad because I haven’t had a lot of competition,” said the 15-year-old. “Even at the BC Winter Games I didn’t have anyone to race against, so I’d like to have more people into it.”
This week, when Suchy attends the Haywood Ski Nationals at the Callaghan Valley Nordic Centre from Mar. 23-30, she will get her first chance to really test herself against other sit skiers in a race environment.
“My big goal is to beat Colette but I’m not sure how realistic that is at this point,” she said, referring to six-time Paralympian Colette Bourgonje. “I’m not really sure how I stand next to her because this is the first time I’ve really raced against her. I don’t really know what my goal towards her is but I’m hoping to have good technique and just don’t leave anything on the course.”
Suchy has Perthes Syndrome, which limits the mobility in her hips. While she can walk, she can only do so for short distances, meaning normal cross-country skiing isn’t possible for her. In 2010, she attended a Nordic camp in Canmore, where she introduced to sit-skiing. There, she met Bourgonje, and tried out her first sit-ski.
Last winter, Suchy became the first Nordic sit-skier to race at the BC Winter Games. This winter she’s been racing against the Midget girls, where she finished fourth and fifth at Okanagan Cup races at Larch Hills and Sovereign Lakes respectively. She trains with teammates her age, which forces her to really push herself to keep up to them.
“It helps a lot that I train with them because if I didn’t I wouldn’t push myself as hard in training,” she said. “Just trying to keep up to them, it’s really great to know what it feels like to be training. They know how it feels to be an athlete.”
To get to the Nationals she’s received funding from Live It! Love It! and she received new skis courtesy Revelstoke Adaptive Snow Sports. She had a custom sit-ski built for her by Trent Kappler.
Suchy said her ultimate goal is to compete in the Paralympics. For now, she appreciates the sport as a winter activity that gets her outside with her friends and teammates.
“I really like pushing myself to try harder and just achieve the best I can,” she said. “This is a great thing for me to do and stay healthy.”
Who else is representing Revelstoke at the nationals?
Emily Suchy will be one of seven Revelstokians at the Haywood Ski Nationals at the Callaghan Valley near Whistler, B.C., next week. Sisters Brittany and Megan Evans, who we’ve written about in the past, will be looking to assert themselves as two of the top young skiers in Canada.
Three local youth will be making their first trips to the nationals. Matt Smider, the head coach of the Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club provided these bios:
Gordon Mason, 16, will be competing as a Junior Boy in his first Ski Nationals next week. A strong classic skier, Gordon is expecting to post his top results in the 1.2 kilometre classic sprints and the 7.5 kilometre classic interval start. Excited to compete at a high level event, Gordon hopes the experience will provide motivation to continue training and work harder in seasons to come.
Tayla Koerber, 15, will also be competing in her first Ski Nationals as a Juvenile Girl. With this season’s most notable results coming in distance classic races (fourth at BC Cup; first at Okanagan Cup), she is looking forward to the five kilometre classic interval start. Tayla has shown great dedication towards her training and hopes her commitment will pay off as she aims for a top 20 placing. Tayla would like to thank her sponsor Flowt Bikes and Skis.
Daniel Blackie, 14, the youngest member of the RNSC heading to Nationals, will be competing as a Juvenile Boy in his inaugural Ski Nationals. With his quick tempo, Daniel is looking forward to the fun and exciting sprint relay (with Gordon Mason) and the fast, furious and unpredictable classic sprints, where he hopes to make the qualification round with a top 30 placing.
Bronte Viznaugh, 17, will be competing in her second Ski Nationals, having previously raced in Canmore in 2011). Having focused her training all season on the event, Bronte is looking forward to the five kilometre freestyle interval start; her preferred technique and strongest discipline. Bronte will also be teaming up with Tayla Koerber to race the two-person, 6 x 700m sprint relay.