The Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club Jr. Development Team was on the road for the last and final event of the season last week. Rolling into the townsite of Canmore, Alta, there was no mistaking that Canmore was the right stop for the Haywood Ski Nationals. The town had rolled out the red carpet for more than 30 national teams by preparing several blocks of the main street with 800 cubic metres of snow trucked in and carefully prepared with dual tracks and a skate lane.
Nordic sport is woven into the fabric of Canmore, a legacy of the 1988 Olympics whereby the establishment of Nordic trails and facilities at the Canmore Nordic Centre became a viable part of the town’s economic engine and changed its focus irreversibly. Only in Canmore would the town and businesses so decisively welcome athletes, offering free public events highlighting their support and love of Nordic skiing.
The daily arrivals of local schools at the Canmore Nordic Centre reinforced that all were behind the event with fever pitch. A parade of provinces on Friday night was concluded by an enthusiastic welcome from retired Olympic medalists Becky Scott and Sarah Renner. Athletes were reassured that the next few days of Ski Nationals were going to be of epic proportion.
The first day of competition was a great way to shake off the jitters, familiarize with the competition and adjust to the venue. Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club entered two two-person teams on the first day of competition, a gruelling 1.2 km relay skate course repeated three times with barely enough time to kick down breathing rate before taking off again. Team mates and sisters, Brittany and Megan Evans were able to advance to relay finals finishing in an impressive fourth place, only two seconds off a medal. Hanna Thomson and Bronte Viznaugh were 30th out of 45 teams in the same event.
On the second day of competition, in the 5 km free technique event, Brittany and Megan came up with an unprecedented finish – sixth in Junior Girls and fourth in juvenile girls respectively in a field of 80 competitors. Hanna was 25th while Bronte was 71st.
After one day of official training, Tuesday brought a beautiful, clear, sunny Alberta day. This was a mixed blessing as it kept the wax technicians guessing as daytime temperatures rose rapidly before the beginning of the classic race event. Showing their resolve, Brittany and Megan again came up with podium finishes – Brittany a silver medal among Junior Girls and Megan fifth place in the Juvenile Girls age category. Hanna was 29th while Bronte gained an improvement of 10 positions from previous results, placing 61st.
Let me preface that Nordic ski racing tests a range of abilities and skills. Long and middle distance, skate and classic and short distance sprints can be likened to developing a decathlete employing a myriad of training approaches to keep athletes sharp at a variety of competitive events.
Day 3 of competition entailed a rolling 800 metre classic sprint event, complete with the intensity of a mass start that most assuredly brings out the sasquatch in all competitors. This event challenged the waxing techs to strike a delicate balance. Skis needed to have effortless glide without over committing grip wax, yet just enough that athletes could rocket up the three or so climbs on the course. Megan clocked the best result at 17th, followed by Hanna in 30th position. Needless to say, we have more work to do to help our athletes become more savvy in this event. The introduction of a new sprint course at Mt. McPherson is a good start to this improvement.
The final event was a free technique 7.5 km distance event held on the last day. Megan positioned herself in eight place while Bronte was 58th in a field of 63 competitors. Hanna and Brittany did not compete. It was with some nostalgia to see George Grey, a member of Canada’s national team and medalist at the World Cup level, ski his last 50 km event that day before announcing his final retirement.
The Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club looks forward to sending an even larger contingent of athletes to the Ski Nationals in Mt. Ste. Anne, Qc., in 2012. A huge thanks to the support of coaches, athletes and to all club members who encouraged and prepared the club’s Jr. Development athletes throughout their competitive season.
Congratulations to Brittany and Megan Evans for becoming the first athletes in Revelstoke to stand on the podium nationally in Nordic skiing. We can all be proud of that accomplishment. We may not be Canmore but it proves that it takes commitment and belief to make an athlete race program successful.