Tag Archive | "athlete"

Blog Roundup w/Brooks, Stephen, The Hoff, and Kershaw

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July 04, 2013 – Catch up with Holly Brooks, who is celebrating her Fourth of July differently this year. Plus, Liz Stephen looks back on the recent Western REG Camp, Noah Hoffman reveals his secret desire to be a track runner, and Devon Kershaw checks in from Canmore.

Holly Brooks
Hard Decisions, Obvious Decisions
This upcoming July 4th will be spent entirely different than my last couple. For the past four years I’ve raced Mt. Marathon in Seward, Alaska. Mount Marathon – they claim, is the Nation’s second oldest foot race behind the Boston Marathon and this year will be the 86th running.

It’s a tradition for Alaskans on Independence Day and the small town of Seward swells from 3,000 people to 30,000 thousand overnight. While only 500 or so people actually compete in the race, the rest crowd main street eating ice cream, socializing, and watching the race unfold. For those unfamiliar with the format, the race starts on main street, runs 3,022 feet directly up a mountain, rounds a rock at the top and descends 3,022 feet.

Read more here.

Liz Stephen
This week was full of excitement with the Regional Elite Group (REG) camp in town. This is a group that each region of the US has, and they get together for a training camp each summer. From these camps, USSA picks some athletes to come to the National Elite Group (NEG) Camp. It was really great to have these awesome athletes in town to train with and get to know some of the up and coming athletes that will represent our next generation of US skiers. Read more here.

Noah Hoffman
Track Workout
I secretly want to be a 5,000 and 10,000 meter runner. Every year my coach allows me to do one track workout to indulge my fantasies but also probably to remind me that I am not even close to fast enough to be a runner. Today was that workout. On Thursday morning I’m running a 5 kilometer road race here in Park City, so today was a little tune-up for that race. It may be my only running race of the year. My coach allowed me to plan today’s workout based on pace instead of heart rate, the same way a runner plans his workouts. Unfortunately I am full of myself and thought I could run faster than I can. Read more here.

Devon Kershaw
Kicking Back Here in Canmore, It’s Raining, I Can Be a Bit “Hippiesh”
It’s here – “monsoon-June” has rubbed its wet, stinky glove right in Canmore’s face and the rollerski boots and wet pavement are ubiquitous reminders that the Rockies “wet season” is upon us yet again. I thought perhaps Lenny’s calming influence would have had an effect – but apparently not.

As you can probably tell, I’m reaching a little for material this week. That’s a good thing. It’s been a lot of “normal Canmore living” here these last seven days. Aside from some wet training (and only “some” – for the most part it’s been fantastic weather-wise actually since I’ve been back from Bend/Tremblant/Toronto), life is ticking along in a standard way. Read more here.

FIS Cross-Country Talk w/Liz Stephen

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June 28, 2013 – Liz Stephen of the US Ski team had a historic year in 2012/13, placing 5th in the 10k freestyle at the 2013 World Ski Championships (a best-ever finish for a US female), winning the Swiss National Championship 5km FR, along with a victory at the U.S. Distance Championships 30km CL.

Stephen was also part of the 4×5 km World Championships relay team that made US Ski team women’s history placing 4th. She was also part of the Olympic squad in 2010 and earned bronze at the U23 World Championships in 2008.

You were over in Norway for a personal training camp, and were recently up on the Sognefjell Snowfield. Are you training with specific athletes or did you join a Norwegian ski team camp?
Liz Stephen: I joined up with the Norwegian ski team for their 6-day camp. It was a really great experience and I am really grateful to their coaches, Egil and Roar who made it possible for me to join. I have really enjoyed the last two summers when I have gone over to Scandinavia to train with some new skiers and have made lasting friendships that makes living in Europe for five months much more enjoyable. Part of what is so great about this sport is making friends, but also learning from one another and trying to raise the level of the whole sport by sharing training ideas, pushing one another, and getting to know the other athletes. It’s been a really fun and beneficial experience for me, and I was welcomed with open arms by the Norwegian Team and even spent three extra days in Oslo at Celine Brun Lie’s house because I was having so much fun with the girls I didn’t want to leave quite yet!

Last summer you and your US ski team teammates shared in a camp with the Swedish Women’s Ski Team in Sweden, and have had joint camps with the Canadian women in Alaska the past two summers. These must be positive experiences if you continue to do them each year?
LS: YES! Very positive! I have made so many new friends, learned so much from the Swedish and Norwegian Teams and had a really good time training hard with new groups of athletes. I think it really gives me a jump start to my summer of training and adds an element of fun that gets me psyched to work hard for the next four months before we hit the road in November again.

For North American athletes you spend most if not all of the winter in Europe. Does having friends on the different teams make the time away from home an easier experience?
LS: Yes, for sure. Our women’s team all feels like after spending time with the Swedish National Team last year we all have a great group of friends to hang with each weekend, and it makes the whole scene seem more like home and less intimidating. If you are away from home for five months, only spending time with your teammates, and racing 70 girls whom you only know by name, the scene gets very stale. Now that we feel we have friends in those 70 people who used to be just names on a result sheet, the whole atmosphere lightens and becomes much easier to enjoy and as a result, ski faster. Happy athletes perform better.

You are coming off your strongest World Cup season ever, and recorded the best ever distance finish (5th place 10km free technique) for a US female cross-country skier at the recent 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. After such a successful season do you make any changes this summer or just try and replicate last year’s plan?
L.S.: There are always changes that I make to the training each year. Some years the changes are big and some years just little tweaks, but there are always things that I think of during the season, even on a good year that I think I can improve on during the next season’s preparation period. This year, I will just tweak the training from last year a bit, adding certain elements that I think were lacking a bit during the season, and taking away things that I tried but didn’t think made much of a difference.

You and your teammates gathered a great deal of attention at the start of the season with your first ever World Cup 4 x 5km relay podium, and followed up with a 4th place finish in the same event at the World Championships. Is an Olympic medal in the relay at “team” goal for the coming year in Sochi?
LS: Yes, that is for sure a huge goal of ours, and it is for sure my biggest goal for next year. I can’t imagine a more meaningful medal than one that is won by a team of people, though I believe any medal that is won, even individually, takes a team to make it happen.

If you don’t mind sharing, what are your individual goals from the coming year?
LS: My goals for the year are for a top 10 at the Tour de Ski, be a consistent top-10 World Cup skier, and my biggest individual race focus will be the Olympic 30K Freestyle race where I hope to win a medal.

Read more HERE.

SkiTrax 2012-2013 North American (NA) Nordic Ski Awards Update

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June 27, 2013 (Toronto, ON) – There’s still time to vote for who you think are the most deserving athletes for the SkiTrax Annual North American (NA) Nordic Ski Awards honouring top skiers from across Canada and the USA for the 2012-2013 season determined by votes from readers at skitrax.com. A quick update on how things currently stand…

As expected, Kikkan Randall is leading the race for Best Overall Elite Female Skier, while USA’s Andy Newell and Canada’s Len Valjas are duking it out for the Best Male Sprinter bragging rights.

In the contest for Best Conti Cup Male, USST’s Erik Bjornsen and the Canadian Ski Team’s Graham Nishikawa are neck-and-neck. Other exciting battles include the one for Best Jr. Male honours, with Raphael Couturier and Ben Saxton in a very tight race, while it couldn’t get any tighter in the Best Collegiate Male comp, with Rune Odegaard and Harry Seaton tied for the lead. Joanne Reid is leading the Best Collegiate Female category, with several chasers close behind.

In the Paul Robbins Best Breakthrough or Exceptional Nordic Performance(s) contest, USST’s women’s stars Jessie Diggins and Randall are out front as expected, but Canmore’s Jesse Cockney is right on their heels after his world-class sprinting turned heads at the Alberta World Cup in December.

These awards recognize Elite, U23 and junior skiers, along with Conti Cup, collegiate, biathlon, Nordic combined, jumping competitors plus Paranordic skiers as well.

Don’t miss your chance to VOTE (link below) and perhaps win some great prizes from our award sponsors. Hurry, voting ends on Sunday, June 30 at 11pm EST!

This season’s contenders are up against some very tough competition as North American skiers continued their charge to the top of the international ranks and there are many great names across all disciplines to select from.

In total there are 22 categories for men and women so take your time and make your voice heard.

Plus there are some great prizes as all entrants are eligible to win one of five great prizes provided by Salomon, Swix, FI, Exer-Genie, and Auclair. Please include your email address [at the bottom] after submitting your selections if you wish to be eligible to win any prizes.

1st – Salomon S-Lab Skate or Classic boots ($450sk/$299cl)
2nd – Swix T72 Iron (value $400)
3rd – F1 Sprint Skate roller skis (value $269)
4th – Exer-Genie XC Trainer (value $229)
5th – Auclair Rail Gloves (value $50)

Cast your votes and complete as many or as few categories as you like – but you are limited to only ONE entry per person.

Deadline – voting ends at 11pm (EST) on Sunday, June 30, 2013
Winners – announced on July 1, 2013

Sorry the Awards are now closed…

Blog Roundup w/ Diggins, The Hoff, Stephen and SMSXC + Bjornsen & Gaiazova

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June 24, 2013 – Check out the latest news from US skiers in training for the upcoming Olympic season. Jessie Diggins has bid adieu to her adventures in Park City and is headed to Stratton, VT; Noah Hoffman celebrated Summer Soltice Swedish style and contested the second annual U.S. Ski Team Sufferfest uphill road bike race at Sundance; Liz Stephen returned from Norway and now back in Utah she fills us in on her bro on Mt. Denali, Sufferfest and her favourite restaurant in Park City, Vinto; plus SMS Nordic reports on its first Eastern REG camp and Sadie Bjornsen gives us the scoop on the sun, beaches, rivers, paddling and rodeos Alaskan-style…

Jessie Diggins
Last couple days in the Wasatch
This is as close to home as I’ll get in the next month; a 2.5-hour layover in the Minneapolis airport! But that’s ok because I’m going from one awesome place to another; I’ve just left Park City and am en route to Stratton, where I’ll rejoin my club teammates that I haven’t seen in way too long!

Before I left Park City, I wanted to go on an adventure OD – a fun long workout that wasn’t directly related to roller skiing. So Cork and I hiked up Mount Timpanogos, the second highest peak in the Wasatch mountain range.
Read more here.

Noah Hoffman
I went up to my teammate Liz Stephen’s house last night to celebrate Midsummer, a Swedish (European) holiday on the summer solstice. (We know we were a day late.) Liz really likes Sweden and can see herself living there someday. She made us a Swedish meal for the occasion. She recruited our coach Jason Cork to make the bulle (Swedish Pastry). Read more here.

SMS Nordic
Eastern REG Camp Update #1
Everyone arrived at SMS for our REG camp yesterday and settled in with a run, dinner and a short intro meeting. Today we started to get down to business.

USST coach Bryan Fish led the group through a V2 technique progression that started with… V2 with no poles….(6 repeats of a 15 second section)… Read more here.

Liz Stephen
Sunday Sundance Sufferfest
I’m not sure if you have noticed the super moon the last few nights, but it has been amazing.  Check it out tonight if you get a chance and haven’t seen it, as last night once the sun went down I couldn’t believe how bright my living room was with moonshine!  As I was looking at it, I was actually thinking about my brother, Andy, who for the last month has been in Alaska guiding trips for the American Alpine Institute (AAI) up Mt. Denali!  I realized last night, as I was admiring the moon from 8,200 feet, where I live, how much more amazing it must be to see it at 14,000 feet, which is where he and his team currently are on his second trip up the mountain in a month.  The last trip he led his team summited, but he was not able to, as one of the clients fell ill with altitude sickness and he stayed with her at 17,200 feet.  He is hoping to summit this time up, though he has assured me that, while summiting would of course be incredible, just being on the mountain and doing what he loves, is cool enough. Read more here.

Sadie Bjornsen
Summer is HERE!
What is summer in Alaska? I didn’t even know it existed. I can remember about 3 total sunny weeks that I have experienced in Alaska where I break out my shorts and tank tops. That’s why it’s always such a miracle when the heat makes its way up here! While we were at our camp in Bend I kept seeing pictures from Anchorage of people skiing in shorts and sports bras and I was worried I had missed my opportunity, but sure enough- when I got back, summer was still here! As amazing as the sun is in Alaska, it also has its challenges. I always get this feeling that when it is sunny, I have to be outside as much as possible. I want to do my training outside, eat my meals outside, do my homework outside, and do any form of activity outside…. but that doesn’t work so well. Read more here.

Dasha Gaiazova
Summer is HERE!
The Olympics are a scant 8 months away and I’m excited to be sharing my training and preparations progress with you as I make every workout count on the journey to Sochi. When compared to my last-minute Vancouver 2010 qualification, being already qualified for Sochi allows me to shift the focus entirely to performing on the Olympic race day and not worry about the qualification races along the way. It makes my purpose feel so simple and that’s just the way I like it… read more here.


Talkin’ with the Gravy Train – Interview w/Chandra Crawford Part 2

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June 22, 2013 (Canmore, AB) – Talkin’ with the Gravy Train is pleased to present Part 2 of our interview with Canadian cross-country skiing star Chandra Crawford from Canmore, AB, of Olympic fame who is training on her own for the Sochi 2014 Games… listen to Part 1 HERE.

We caught up with Crawford in Canmore, AB… she was enthusiastic and happy and addressed such topics as her decision to take a step back from competition last February, how well her training is going, and her preparations for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games next February.

Chandra also talks with eloquence about what it’s like to recharge the batteries after what she called a “solid burnout”, and how she has found the joy in skiing and training again. The Canmore, Alberta native also speaks about health and happiness in this inspired interview. At the end, one thing is certain…Crawford will be a force to be reckoned with this coming season.

Interview with Chandra Crawford – Part 2


Diggins Report – Pics from Park City

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June 19, 2013 (Park City, UT) – For once, I’m going to let the pictures do the talking! Here’s what we’ve been up to in Park City the past few days full of hiking, biking, swimming, pasta… and whole lot more.

FIS Interview w/Kikkan Randall in Dubrovnik

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June 06, 2013 (Dubrovnik, Croatia) – FIS Newsflash caught up with FIS Cross-Country World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall (USA) on the eve of the 2013 FIS Calendar Conference. Randall is present in Cavtat-Dubrovnik (CRO) for her role as one of the two Athlete Representatives for Cross-Country Skiing within the FIS Athlete Commission. The FIS Council has to formally confirm all members on June 10.

You were recently re-elected as the female athlete representative for Cross-Country Skiing. It was four years ago in 2009 when you first attended one of these meetings that just happened to be in Cavtat-Dubrovnik as well. Looking back over those four years, do you return to this location with positive feelings from your role as a Cross-Country Athlete rep?
Kikkan Randall: You know being back here in Dubrovnik really helps me reflect on the past four years. When I arrived the first time in Dubrovnik I really didn’t know what I was doing, and now four years later I know the ropes much better and have built what I feel is a solid platform for me to be able to represent the needs of the athletes.

What is on the agenda for you this year?
KR: We had a very productive athlete’s survey that focused on a few things on the calendar. For next season and the seasons beyond, we will be able to provide clear and direct feedback on things like what competitions and formats the athletes would like to see. Also I will continue to work to improve little things like athlete areas and execution of prize money payment. These are small details but this is a great time to bring attention to those items here at the meetings. It’s also important that I also take back what I learn here and present it to the athletes.

During your first term as athlete rep you were partnered with Sami Jauhojärvi of Finland. What were your first moves to build influence within FIS on behalf of the athletes?
KR: Working with Sami we developed a network and a way of getting feedback from the athletes and presenting it in a manageable form for the FIS Cross-Country Committee. Over those four years the process has become more refined and we now have an established pathway to make the needs and the concerns of the athletes heard.

As a result of your work on behalf of the athletes, you now have a voting right at the table of the FIS Cross-Country Committee. That is a first time for such a right for athlete representatives within FIS.
KR: I think that is one of the biggest accomplishments that Sami and I have achieved over the past four years. It’s huge for us. We really took the lead from the IOC Athlete Commission, where they have representation at the highest level on their Executive Board.

Aside from the FIS meetings, how is your training going in the new year?
KR: Our US competition season continued about 2 weeks longer than usual this year, so it feels like it has been a quick turnaround since my season ended, but I have been back to training again for three weeks now. I am being cautious so far to make sure none of the foot trouble I had last season resurfaces. It’s been a good start and enthusiasm is high with it being an Olympic year. I am hoping to be able to get a few little training sessions here while in Croatia.

Thank you for your time. Good luck with the meetings and the upcoming training and competition year.
KR: Thanks.

Flora to Present NANANordic to International Olympic Academy in Greece

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June 06, 2013 (Anchorage, Alaska) – Lars Flora, two-time Olympian and executive director and founder of NANANordic, is one of three U.S. representatives chosen to participate in the International Olympic Academy (IOA) from June 11 – 25, 2013, in Athens and Olympia, Greece. The other two are U.S. Olympic Committee staffers.

The IOA’s goal is to educate and motivate young people to use their experiences and knowledge gained from the session productively in promoting the Olympic ideas and educating others in their own countries. Flora will present NANANordic to the 200 participants from around the globe taking part in this year’s event.

“This has been an amazing journey,” said Flora. “We’ve introduced nearly 2,000 children in Northwest Alaska to Nordic skiing, giving them another winter recreation opportunity in a region where there’s snow on the ground eight months out of the year. This is just the beginning. Timing for the conference is great – we’re in the planning stages for our third season now. I’m looking forward to hearing ideas that will help NANANordic become even more successful.”

NANANordic was formed to introduce the lifetime sport of cross-country skiing to rural Alaska through a sustainable Nordic ski program, starting with villages in the NANA region. Two-time Olympian Lars Flora brought the idea to NANA Development Corporation in 2011. Funded by corporate and individual donations, Flora and 20 volunteers, in cooperation with the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, provided a month of cross-country ski instruction to 650 students in Kotzebue, Kiana, Selawik and Noorvik in 2012. This year, approximately 2,000 children in all NANA region villages, as well as Anaktuvuk Pass, had an opportunity to learn to cross-country ski from more than 45 volunteers consisting of Olympians, World Cup athletes, University and college coaches and elite high school athletes.

For more information on NANANordic.com or facebook.com/NANANordic.

Olympic Day with Olympian Andy Newell – June 23

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June 05, 2013 (Bennington, Vermont) – Olympic Day with Olympian Andy Newell, presented by The Bank of Bennington, is a celebration and international effort to promote fitness and well-being in addition to Olympic ideals of Fair Play, Perseverance, Respect and Sportsmanship.

When: June 23, 2013,  9-11:30 AM

Where: Willow Park – lower Pavilion

Event Details:
– Ages 15 and under
– Enjoy games and fun Olympic style events
– Create your own Olympic medals
– Photo signing with local Olympian Andy Newell
– Come any time between 9-11:30am






Team USA Interview w/Billy Demong

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May 31, 2013 – Check out a great interview with 2010 Nordic Combined Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Demong (USA). Steve Mesler of the 2010 gold medal winning four-man bobsled team does the interviewing honours as Demong reflects on Vancouver 2010 and articulates his feelings on the lead-up to Sochi 2014 as defending champion. “This year I didn’t medal at World Championships (individually), and for sure didn’t kill it, and I think that makes me more motivated for sure,” says Demong… read the interview HERE.

Sargent Report – Kauai in Pictures

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May 10, 2013 – Growing up, the Sargent family vacations were backpacking, skiing, or camping trips, which always involved packed itineraries, cold climates, paddling around another lake, or summiting one more mountain.  I was forever envious of my friends who traveled to Florida and just sat on the beach.  This year, since I didn’t need to rush back to school as soon as the ski season finished, my big sister Elsa and I decided to go on a tropical vacation together.  We chose the Hawaiian Island of Kauai… Read more and see lots of pics HERE.

CPC Announces Recipients of 2013-14 Para-Equipment Fund and Recruitment Program Fund

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May 09, 2013 (Ottawa, ON) – The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) is pleased to announce the 2013-14 recipients of the Para-Equipment Fund, supported by Invacare Canada, as well as the Recruitment Program Fund. Both funds are supported by the Government of Canada’s Sport Support Program.

The Para-Equipment Fund (PEF) delivers grants of up to $5,000 to national and provincial sport organizations as well as local level clubs to purchase adapted equipment – for sports such as wheelchair basketball, sledge hockey, or skiing for people with visual impairments, for example – to enable people with a disability to take part in sport. Grants awarded help the sport organizations cover 50 per cent of the total cost of the equipment.

This year, 42 sport organizations representing 17 parasports in regions across Canada received a total of $154,679.17 from the Para-Equipment Fund. Due to the matching nature of the Fund by the recipient, a total of $309,358.34 will be invested into the parasport system.

“Our involvement in the Para-Equipment fund allows us at Invacare and our performance wheelchair team at Top End to work towards our goal of making life’s experiences possible,” said Vince Morelli, General Manager of Invacare Canada, a leading manufacturer of wheelchairs for both everyday use and competitive sports. “The Fund will help nurture the hopes and dreams of more kids with disabilities, allowing them to participate and be active through Invacare’s product lines – and maybe even one day compete for Canada at the Paralympic  Games!”

The Recruitment Program Fund (RPF) awards grants of up to $10,000 to sports organizations to financially support the creation of a new sports program or the expansion of an existing successful program that provides a positive introductory sports experience for participants
with a disability.

Funds may be used towards enhancing program options, such as facility rental space, coaching, volunteer training and more.

This year, 28 sport organizations representing 18 parasports in regions across Canada received a total of $196,151.00 from the Recruitment Program Fund.

Between the two funds, a total of $350,830.17 in funds will be distributed to 60 sport organizations across the country (10 organizations are receiving both funds), representing 21 different sports. Including the matching of $154,679.17 by recipients of the Para-Equipment  Fund, a total of $505,509.34 will be invested in sports programs and sports equipment for people with a disability in Canada.

The complete list of recipients of the 2013-14 Para-Equipment Fund and Recruitment Program Fund is posted and downloadable HERE.

“Supporting the Para-Equipment Fund and Recruitment Programs Fund, and playing a leading role in the inclusion of people with disabilities in sport are things our Government is proud to do,” said the Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport). “By providing these opportunities for people with disabilities, we are helping develop athletes who could one day proudly wear the maple leaf and represent Canada on the international stage.”

“Making the benefits of sport available to all is critical to Canada becoming a world leading Paralympic nation,” said David Legg, President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee. “To do this it is essential to make available quality introductory sport programming and adapted sports equipment in order to give those with a disability a place to play and a positive sport experience. I would like to congratulate the recipients of the Para-Equipment Fund and the Recruitment Program Fund, and thank Invacare Canada, the Government of Canada, and all involved in parasport for their dedication and efforts in helping develop Canada’s parasport system.”

Diggins Report – Freak Snowstorms… and Car Troubles

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May 03, 2013 – Okay, what is UP with snow on May 2…? And not just a dusting of it – 6.5 inches in my backyard! A half-hour’s drive North of Afton there wasn’t any snow at all, and down by Redwing they got about a foot. This is weird.

I went out to the park today (the Afton State Park, where they don’t groom but you can break your own trail and poach the downhill slopes of Afton Alps) and had a really fun ski. It was slow going and the snow brought down more than a few trees, so there was a lot of ducking going on while cruising downhill.

I was debating whether or not to post about my “car troubles”, but since no real lasting damage was done, I decided… why not? I already write about most everything else going on in my life.

This was two spring snowstorms ago, on April 18th. It started out as icy rain, which quickly froze and started turning to snow. I wasn’t psyched about driving in it in the first place, but I needed to get my little sister from the bus stop, so I decided I’d be fine if I just drove slow. So I got my sister and headed home.

But we weren’t fine. Neither was the car.

The annoying this is, I thought I was doing everything right. I had both hands on the wheel, was going super slow, wasn’t on my phone, ect. But at the top of a hill about a mile and a half from home, I drove under some trees where the rain had frozen and must have tapped my brakes at exactly the wrong time. The car started to skid, and I panicked, and probably made it worse by overadjusting.

We went off the road and hit a tree going sideways, scraping along before coasting into a cornfield. The windshield cracked, the two left windows shattered, the side airbags deployed and the frame bent inwards. If we had gone off the road three feet later, we wouldn’t have hit anything and been fine, but if we had gone off the side three feet earlier, we would have been seriously hurt. As it was, Mackenzie’s side of the car was completely pristine and she was shaken up but fine, and although my side looked wrecked I was also untouched except for a few small cuts from the glass all over me.

I was actually able to drive the car out of the ditch, but since the airbags went off and all, it was decided that the car was totaled. Luckily, our insurance was great and we were able to get a new car. The only lasting damage is this: the song “Radioactive” was playing when we hit the tree and now everytime I’m driving and the song comes on the radio, I get a sudden wave a panic and have to change the station. Super weird and annoying, because I loved that song. But life goes on!

I guest coached the strength workout today for Loppet Nordic Racing, which was fun. They were a really motivated group and it was cool to share new ideas and have everyone try them out.

Visiting Podiumwear in the cities was a real treat – I got to see what new fabrics and designs are coming out soon! Luckily I’m writing, not talking, so I don’t accidentally spill the secrets :)

I also got to kayak in a pool as part of a relay – the YMCA challenge games in Red Wing, MN. I was part of the Red Wing Slumberland Furniture team, and it was suprisingly challenging to navigate a turn around a buoy in a narrow lane!

Kershaw Report – Spring 2013

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April 22, 2013 (Canmore, AB) – The 2012/13 racing season is now long over. The snow, clinging desperately to the mountains, rocks and trees, is in deep discussions, begging to let go, turn to water, spurring the “actual” beginning of next season – one of growth, new beginnings and if you are me – debilitating allergies: spring.

Spring is losing here in Canmore as of now. Snowstorms still blow through the valley and the ski touring is still light’s out delicious in the ranges behind the Bow Valley. But winter is waging a losing battle and while all good things come to an end – so too will the snowy peaks, cold temperatures and well, winter.

Speaking of winter – it’s no secret that I envisioned last season going better. I was coming off a career best season in 2011/12. Those feelings of winning World Cups, finishing 2nd overall and 2nd in the distance cup were definitely fresh in the mind. Throughout the training season I was feeling stronger, fitter and faster physically for months on end – even though emotionally I could have been categorized easily by any high school girl within 30 seconds of hanging out with me as “a total mess.” I can admit it. Still though – I was sure that this year I was going to be able to take that next, last little step needed after the strong foundation laid in 2011/12.

Instead, back in November I took a little step in the wrong direction – on a stronger concrete foundation in the shape of stairs – and tore a ligament in my foot. Not the best move only a week out from the season opener. I let myself get the better of myself – if you follow that – and instead of taking a step back and recovering fully I pushed on – taping it, getting therapy, icing it and wishing with all my energy that it’d heal magically.

It didn’t and for the first 8 weeks of the racing season I had plenty of reminders that sometimes no amount of wishing and hoping can combat reality. I kept it within the team and asked that the team not discuss it publically. I guess I was just so motivated and hungry to have a good season, that if people started talking about it – it would get more real. It’s hard to explain if you aren’t an athlete and maybe you don’t understand, but I felt as though if I was racing – even if it hurt – then it wasn’t a huge deal….

As the winter rolled on, the results remained disappointing. I had some glimmers of “ok” feelings – a few top tens, 12th overall at the Tour de Ski, 4th at the World Championships with Alex in the team sprint – but on the whole I just wasn’t feeling myself. Gone were the weekends of winning and on the podium. Coupled with the torn ligament, I contracted some rough food poisoning in France that reoccurred three more times from mid January to late February which wasn’t a barrel of laughs either.

These aren’t excuses – I know that I made some mistakes in my training season, we made some mistakes with regards to my race calendar, and some other smaller ones along the way, too, that seemed to have a bigger impact that we thought. I take full responsibility for that – but it wasn’t the best to having health issues on top of that. At this level, it’s a precarious place to hang out – between success and failure. Everything needs to come together and sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned or wanted them to for whatever reason.

The last month of the season continued to be tough. I had some more stomach issues early at the World Championships – which translated into one race where I felt good (the team sprint with Alex). After the World Championships – the spring World Cup was a rough period for our team too – as we just weren’t able to deliver the results and good feelings that we’d become accustomed to when the World Cup heads back to Scandinavia in the spring.

Looking back, it’s amazing that we had the success we had at the World Championships at all – which I think speaks volumes of our team as a whole (staff, athletes, techs, everyone). Alex won a historic bronze in classic sprint – traditionally one of his weakest events. Babs was 4th in the 15km skate, and Alex and I finished agonizingly close to the bronze – 4th – in the team sprint.

Now it’s time to inject some positivity – the cool and simply reality of spring is that things melt and start growing again. Those feelings of disappointment are melting away – we’ve had great discussions about what we did, what we can do better, and what we’ll do moving forward and I’m 100% confident that we still have a great team and new plan moving forward.

I was pretty tired emotionally/mentally upon arriving in Canada and I’ve spent most of my time in the mountains back country skiing – healing the mind and letting go of all the disappointment. I’ve got out 14 days of the last 20, which has been both fantastic and rejuvenating. For me, in the spring time there’s nothing better than backcountry skiing – you are way back in some mountain range with just you and your buddies, no internet, phone, nothing – it’s simplicity at it’s best and it’s amazing.

Up next in the two-pronged “get ready to rock and roll” is the “real” rest – as I’m off to Maui tomorrow to check in on Lenny’s tan – kidding! It’ll be awesome to get some vitamin D, eat some delicious fish and tropical fruit, get completely thrashed in the waves and vibe out. I know that after that I’ll be 100% ready to go for the Olympic training year. Hard to believe that this quadrennial came and went so quickly. I have some unfinished business there after finishing 4th and 5th in the last Games in Vancouver – so this year will be about simplifying things, training well, making good decisions and enjoying it.

We’ll learn, adjust and attack going forward. My good friend and Canadian sports psych’ extraordinaire likes to quote Andre Agassi’s “I can live with disappointment, but I can’t live with regret.” Damn right. I was disappointed with how the season went – no question. But I don’t regret it. I did what I thought was best at the time – it ended up being wrong. I made mistakes, I’m learning from them, and I’m fired up moving forward.

Lao Tzu wrote, “Succeeding is the coming together of all things beautiful and perseverance is the foundation of all actions.” I couldn’t agree more.

Enjoy your spring everyone and thanks for the support!


FIS Fantasy Marathon Cup 2012/13 Final Contest Standings and Winners Announced after the Engadin Skimarathon

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March 27, 2013 (Toronto, ON) – We’re sorry for the delay and thrilled to announce the overall standings and winners of the second annual SkiTrax FIS Fantasy Marathon Cup 2012/13 Contest after the Engadin Skimarathon 42km  free technique race held in Switzerland on March 10. Read our coverage of the 45th Engadin Skimarathon, including final overall FIS Marathon Cup standings here.

Team dom managed to defend the lead to the end with 650 points, while teams beaujo and legrandbo made last-minute charges to earn top-three finishes with 644 and 640 points, respectively.

For the final contest standings after the Engadin Skimarathon, please click HERE.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks again to all contestants and our great sponsors including Nipika, Marwe, Yoko, Halti, Skiwax.ca, 2XU, One Way, Fresh Air Experience, High Peaks Cyclery, Auclair, and Buff.

FIS Fantasy Marathon Cup Prize Winners

– dom – Dom Berrod – Fleurie, France
* 1st Prize – Nipika Lodge
– 4-nights for 2 people in luxurious cabin, including Trail Fees (value up to $1,160)

– beaujo – Rene Berrod – Vivier, France
* 2nd Prize –  Marwe
610c Roller Skis (value $349)

– legrandbo – Guy Ruet – Le Grand Bornand, France
* 3rd Prize – Yoko
9100 Poles (value $299)

– Redl… – Agris Krievans – Naukseni, Latvia
* 4th Prize – Halti
XC Race Suit Hemmo Set (value $269)

– fleur – Simone Berrod – Fleurie, France
* 5th Prize – Skiwax.ca
Racer Kickwax kit (value $235)

– swedish – Vincent Ruet – Montalieu Vercieu, France
* 6th Prize –  2XU
Long Sleeve Thermal Compression Top and Elite Socks (value $195)

– lafrasse – Christiane Ruet – Le Grand Bornand, France
* 7th Prize – One Way Snowbird Glasses (value $120)

– bondin – Alex Moiroud – Montalieu, France
* 8th Prize – Fresh Air Experience
or High Peaks Cyclery Gift Certificate (value $100)

– littlebig – Nadine Moiroud – Montalieu, France
* 9th Prize – Auclair
Micro Mountain Olympic Gloves + Earbags (value $65)

– rgsnow – Guillaume Ruet – Fleurie, France
* 10th Prize – Buff
Headware (value $23)

SkiTrax is North America’s leading Nordic skiing publication and the official magazine of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and Cross Country Canada (CCC).

Interview w/Canadian Men’s XC Team Coach Justin Wadsworth in Falun

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March 25, 2013 (Falun, Sweden) – SkiTrax caught up with Canadian Men’s XC Team Coach Justin Wadsworth after the FIS World Cup finale in Falun, Sweden this past weekend to get his take on the 2012/13 season, the highs and lows, and what the squad will do differently next year to get the team back on their game.

While many teams would love to have Canada’s record this season with half-a-dozen podiums and the first ever individual medal by a Canadian man at the World Championships courtesy of Alex Harvey, the Canucks were striving for more following an astounding 14 medals last season.

Things did not go as planned this season admitted Wadsworth, but he is positive the team will turn things around in the upcoming Olympic year – when it really counts.

For a quick 2012/13 season Canadian team medal recap: Len Valjas scored two medals this season, including a bronze in the Sprint FR in Val Mustair (SUI) and silver in the 15km CL Mass start in Val di Fiemme (ITA), both during the Tour de Ski. Alex Harvey finished right behind Valjas in the latter race to share the podium with his teammate winning the bronze.

At the end of the TdS, Ivan Babikov scored the silver in the final 9km FR Pursuit stage up Alpe Cermis (ITA). Babikov was also the top NA skier in the overall WCup in 20th (Devon Kershaw was second overall last year while Harvey was 6th).  Then Harvey came around again near the end of the season to be the first ever Canadian man to win an individual World Championship medal when he placed third in the classic sprint in Val di Fiemme (ITA).

On the women’s side, the highlight was when Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova scored third in the team sprint at the Sochi World Cup (RUS).

Interview w/Justin Wadsworth

Job Opportunity – Own the Podium

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March 13, 2013 (Ottawa, ON) – Own the Podium is an innovative independent organization that was created to bring together the key partners involved in leading and funding high performance sport in Canada. The mandate of Own the Podium is to help more Canadian athletes win more medals at the Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Own the Podium provides technical expertise and advice to national sport organziations in support of Canada’s podium performance goals.

Position: Director, Winter Sport
Reports to: Chief Executive Officer
Location: Calgary, AB
Application Deadline: 15 April 2013
Term: 4 year contract, start date negotiable

Scope of Position:
Individual responsible for leading the planning and implementation of ‘excellence’ programs for targeted winter sports.

Core Competencies:
• Demonstrates a sense of direction and purpose aligned with OTP’s vision, guiding principles and goals
• Driven by excellence in all facets, strives to be leading edge in own area of expertise and embraces opportunity for continuous improvement
• Continually makes efforts to understand client needs in an inclusive, outreaching, and adaptable manner
• Behaves in an open, transparent, respectful and fair manner and demonstrates these traits through ability to develop effective relationships with diverse groups of people
• Effective at leading and building teams
• Self-monitors work to ensure quality and accuracy

Roles and Responsibilities
1. Manage and mentor the winter high-performance advisors, as they undertake their responsibilities with NSOs, CSIs, ISTs and others
2. Assist with OTP interventions with client groups when and where appropriate.
3. Manage technical specialists (i.e. video analysts) working with the winter program
4. Build working partnerships with the winter sports to ensure common vision, goals and strategies to achieve excellence in targeted sports
5. Work effectively with Sport Canada, the COC,CPC, CSC/CSIs, IST staff and others to accomplish various tasks
6. Contribute to the establishment of annual business plans and be accountable for implementing these plans.
7. Work effectively with and under the direction of the CEO and with colleagues in other parts of the program, and specifically with the summer OTP program to ensure common approaches, policies and unified leadership for high-performance sport
8. Ensure staff reporting to the Director are fully integrated into sport science, medicine, research, technology, coaching and other OTP initiatives, and promote these opportunities to client groups
9. Formulate funding recommendations; lead the annual and other reviews of the winter sports (and assist with CSI and CSC reviews) to identify priorities that will produce podium results.
10. With others, develop new policies and programs that will assist achieving excellence at the Olympic and Paralympic Games
11. Promote excellence in Canadian sport and contribute to national communications strategies and programs to do so.
12. Undertake program evaluations during Games, training camps and competitions
13. Undertake intelligence gathering on international issues, trends, results etc.

• University Degree or College Diploma.
• Over ten years of experience working at a senior level in the Canadian high-performance sport system.
• Computer Skills and knowledge of the MS Office Suite is required
• Bilingualism is a preferred asset

The compensation package will be based on the successful candidate’s qualifications and experience.

Application Process
Apply in confidence by sending your cover letter resume by Monday, 15 April 2013 to careers@ownthepodium.org or by mail to:

Own the Podium
Attention: Director, Planning & Operations
Suite 120, 700 Industrial Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1G 0Y9

We thank all applicants for their interest; however only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

The Hoff Report – Vierumäki, World Cup Periods, Old Friends and New + Season Goals

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March 08, 2013 (Lahti, Finland) – Kris Freeman, Tad Elliott and I decided to ski on the great tourist trails here in Vierumäki this morning instead of driving the 35 minutes into Lahti. It was fun to have a low key session on some quiet trails. Here’s Tad:

When we started skiing it was nice and sunny.

Then it started dumping snow. It is a bit of a shock to be back in full winter after the temperatures in the 70s in Italy. Here’s Kris:

The bathrooms in our dorm rooms are very typical Finnish. They have no system to keep the water in the shower.

Instead they are equipped with a squeegee to dry with when you’re done.

The World Cup season is broken down into four periods. In each period a leader (one man and one woman) from each of the continental cup race series (lower level race series around the world) gets a paid World Cup start position for the entire next period. The continental cups are the Scandinavian Cup, the OPA cup, the SuperTour (USA), the NorAM Cup, the Far East Cup, the Slavic Cup, the Baltic Cup and the Australia-New Zealand Cup. (There may be others I’m missing. I’m not sure if there’s one in Russia.)

For World Cup period four (which includes the three weekends after World Championships), each continental cup gets to send three (instead of one) men and three women (only the top athlete gets funded and gets to go to World Cup Finals) to the World Cup.

The U.S. has chosen to define these three spots as the overall, sprint and distance leaders of the SuperTour. Because the overall and distance leaders are often one in the same, generally only two athletes of each gender from the U.S. come. The athletes with World Cup starts from the U.S. this period are Torin Koos (overall and distance leader), Dakota Blackhorse-von-Jess (Sprint leader), Rosie Brennan (overall and distance leader) and Sadie Bjornsen (sprint leader).

It is amazing (and a testament to her great skiing) that Sadie continues to lead the sprint standings considering that she hasn’t raced in the U.S. since U.S. Nationals in early January. She is a U.S. Ski Team athlete and has been racing World Cups since then. In addition to the SuperTour leaders and U.S. Ski Team members, Sophie Caldwell is here on invitation after her great results in previous World Cups and the World Championships. In total, there are fifteen athletes from the U.S. competing this weekend.

I am rooming with my former U.S. Ski Team teammate and World Cup veteran Torin Koos:

I have been to many Junior Olympics, camps, Junior Scandinavian Cup trips, and World Junior trips with Rosie (right) and Sophie.

I’m psyched to have some old friends around and some new faces on the team!

Lastly, I wrote an update about my season for The Aspen Times. In it I talk about where I stand with regards to my goals of qualifying for the Red Group and making World Cup Finals. You can find the article here.

Hellner and Cologna to Sit Out Classic Sprint in Val di Fiemme

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February 20, 2013 (Val di Fiemme, Italy) – Cross-Country stars Dario Cologna (SUI) and Marcus Hellner (SWE) will not contest the Sprint on Thursday, the opening round of competition at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, according to the German news site Handelsblatt.com.

Cologna, Olympic champion in the 15km distance, and Sweden’s Hellner, who won gold in the 30km event at the Vancouver 2010 Games, want to conserve their strength for the distance races, which begin on Saturday with the 30km Skiathlon. In the sprint competition, both had only an outside chance.

Read the original article HERE (German).

Interview with Track Star Tara Whitten – Former XC Great and Gatineau Loppet Honorary President

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February 18, 2013 (Gatineau, Quebec) – Last year was a rough one to have heroes in cycling. It was a reminder that all too often the attributes that make successful athletes need not be those that make holistically praiseworthy people.

So it was refreshing to sit down with Tara Whitten at this year’s 35th Gatineau Loppet for a wide ranging interview. Not just an Olympic bronze medallist, multiple world champion and PhD candidate in neuroscience, Whitten is also a genuinely nice person, discussed topics from; ski racing, to track development, to her own athletic plans for the future.

She went as far as to apologize for being “wishy-washy” about her future in the sport, but then again, after a decade of international competition, first as a skier, and then as a cyclist, Whitten has earned herself a break.

Whitten was this year’s Honorary Gatineau Loppet President, and while the Edmontonian had won this 50km skate event here in 2004, she hadn’t done a proper ski race since Nationals in Quebec in 2007, by which point her heart was no longer in the sport. It was at that point that she began to shift her attention to track cycling – a sport in which she had first dabbled back in 2005.

Whitten did admit to having done the Edmonton Birkie last week, and said she felt much less beat up than after this weekend – joking that maybe she was already making a training adaptation. For an athlete that Cycling Canada’s HP Director, Jaques Landry, once called “a freak of nature” such an adaptation isn’t entirely unlikely.

So right upfront what are you plans right now for your own sporting future?
Tara Whitten: To be honest I’m a little uncertain. On one hand I’m excited about the prospect of the 4 person four-kilometer women’s team pursuit. It’s an interesting change, and would be neat to be a part of as our whole team just keeps on getting stronger. It’s tempting to think about being part of. I’m also excited about maybe focusing more on time trialing.

So the Omnium has no part in your plans?
TW: For the Omnium we’d have to wait and see, I think its future as an Olympic event is a bit more uncertain. I also think its future might be more with the sprinter – not pure sprinters, but riders with real speed. I actually think Gillian [Carleton] has a chance to combine that pure speed I don’t have with the endurance needed for the event. But we’ll have to see how it all develops in the next few years.

Team pursuit with four women. Good or bad for Canada?
TW: There are two ways to look at that, it can be good or bad. There are some countries with more depth and a deeper pool than us for sure. But at the same time after what we accomplished in London, I think that will help attract younger athlete into being interested in the track. I think we will find some strong new team pursuiters in the next four years to compliment the ones we already have.

How is the situation in Canada now compared to when you first started five years ago?
TW: There is so much more depth now. I really believe that team events have a huge impact on development. They give so many more opportunities for women to get involved, and from there they can branch out into the individual events as well. In 2007 when I started I was the only women in Canada pursuiting under 3:45. Now every girl in the pool can do that – that is four women if you don’t count me.

Have you spent much time in the Ottawa area before?
TW: A couple times for the Keski, and for my first ski nationals in this region in 1995. As well I’ve come out twice in the summer for the Women’s GP – so I’ve spent a bit of time here.

There is a group in Ottawa working to build a velodrome in the National capital region- how important it to have development opportunities like this in Canada?
TW: The importance of facilities like that is hard to overestimate. You need kids to have the chance to do a sport to get excited about it – especially a sport like track that you don’t even see on TV except for the Olympics. There is no chance for a development system without these facilities. The more opportunities there are for kids to try different sports the better. And some of those sports will cross over – like  cycling and skiing did for me. We can’t just be building hockey arenas.

How long were you a ski racer before you became a cyclist?
TW: I spent 13 years as a ski racer before cycling. Cross country skiing has a GREAT development system. When you go to a ski race you see the whole family, with two year age categories for boys and girls aged 7 and up. The kids are just out there having fun and racing Jackrabbit. It’s very different from most bike races you go to which is made up mainly of masters and men. They are guys that love the sport, but it’s not development.

Cross-country skiing also seems to be far more co-ed.
TW: Fore sure, hugely so. I’m not sure if cycling has an intimidation factor that keeps girls out or what, but the numbers of girls competing is so much smaller. There was definitely a tendency for the girls to drop out of the skiing more than the guys as they got a little older, but they are there in the younger ages.

How important was Richard Wooles’ decision to move the Canadian track program to L.A.?
TW: I don’t think there is any way we could have done what we did without a world class facility as a training base. Los Angeles isn’t necessarily ideal- the road riding around there isn’t great for example. But having access to that facility and training as a team were so  important to Team Canada’s success.

It would have been nicer to have been able to be in Canada. A lot of people felt really disconnected from home and the people in their lives. It was definitely a bit of a sacrifice to be based there. It wasn’t even like significant others could get visas and relocate there.

Do you think the new velodrome in Milton will be a big change?
TW: For sure! Just being able to be in Canada, I can’t explain how exciting that is. I imagine the endurance riders will have to do some road  camps in the winter. And it’s not just great for the elites, but for young athletes to be able to see high level track cycling in their own  backyard will be a huge step forwards for the next generation.

Just for the record, what exactly is your PhD in?
TW: Neuroscience, my thesis in high frequency rhythms in the hippocampus in sleep-like states. It is an area of the brain that is involved with memory, which we’ve known about since the 1950’s because of the case of Henry Molaison.

At this point Whitten was whisked off to hand out medals to the podiums in the skate races. In a funny twist the first winner Whitten presented a medal to was former national cycling team teammate Veronique Fortin, who had won the 27km freestyle event.

Canadian Paralympic Committee Seeks Nominations for the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame

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February 04, 2013 (Ottawa, ON) – The Canadian Paralympic Committee is pleased to announce that the call for nominations for induction into the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame is now open.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee encourages all members of the Canadian Paralympic family to look to their members, athletes, coaches, leaders and others for those who could qualify as recipients of this prestigious award in one of three categories: athlete, coach, or builder.

All nominations must be received by the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame Selection Committee by March 15, 2013.

Inductees will be invited to attend the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on May 10, 2013 in Toronto.

Nomination criteria
The Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame Selection Committee will be seeking nominees who meet a number of criteria, including:

– Athletic performance at the Paralympic Games and awards received
– Contribution to the Paralympic Movement
– Influence on Paralympic athlete or team success
– Technical innovations and contributions to the development of the sport and/or coaching community
– Has made a distinguished contribution to the development of Paralympic sport
– More information on the Paralympic Hall of Fame and its nomination criteria can be found on the 2013 Nomination and – Declaration Form available at www.paralympic.ca/halloffame

Diggins Report – Checking Out Sochi

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January 28, 2013 (Sochi, Russia) – At the moment, the 5th Russian fix-it-man of the day is watching Holly try to explain/pantomime that the upstairs shower leaks through the ceiling and upstairs someone else is working on the pipes. And this has been the “down-time” part of the last few days! Russia has been very exciting, like this huge adventure. I’m never quite sure what to expect, where to go and when to be there, but it’s cool as long as you go with the flow. And don’t bother asking questions – you won’t get anywhere!

So here’s how our travel to Sochi started: we drove to the Zurich Airport a full 4 hours before our flight was supposed to leave. Just in case, you know. And we had to tag and drop off all our ski bags and duffels, and then go purchase tickets inside. Then we boarded the plane. So far, this sounds like a normal travel day, right?

Because this was a charter flight full of athletes and all their skis, wax tables, benches and boxes, there were about 90 bags that didn’t make the flight. But not for lack of trying. The last 10-ish rows of the plane had the seats folded down and duffels stacked up – and the row in front of them was emptied “for safety reasons”. In case the bags started sliding, I guess. I think the plane was weighted funny because when we landed, we landed HARD and there might have been a few screams from the back row (we were in the back rows).

But the flight was fine, and then we had to get through customs. Turns out getting into Russia isn’t that easy and you need an invitation, then a visa, and then you fill out identical sides of this tiny piece of paper that they stamp. What they don’t emphasize nearly enough is that the other half of that little paper is your ticket back out, and you can’t lose it. Just don’t let it out of your sight!

Our team was really lucky and all our bags made it through, so we loaded them into these huge trucks and then waited in the rain for a bus. Once we were on the bus, we waited on the side of the road for 30 minutes, then drove slowly through traffic up to the venue. Then waited some more, before going through accreditation processing.

Once we got our credentials, which you also CANNOT LOSE because there are guards in fur hats everywhere that check your creds at all these checkpoints, we went through another security scanner. Then we hopped into a gondola that took us to the Olympic village and trails at the top of the mountain, at the venue called “Laura”. Turns out the venue is named after a raging river, which is named after a girl named Laura who jumped in it to kill herself instead of living with an old prince she didn’t love. Whoa. More info on the venue and 2014 Olympics in general HERE.

After getting off the gondola, we had to check in again to get our keys to the condo, and after eating dinner at 1:00am we took the bumpiest bus ride EVER to get to our lodging. It was super exciting! We all thought the bus ride was hilarious so everyone had their phones out. The picture below helps to explain some of the bumpy ride. So yep, that was our travel to Russia! But because we arrived in the dead of night, we woke up to see beautiful mountains and check out the venue.

Basically, we’re staying in brand spanking new condos that have 5 rooms each, for 10 people total, and they’re super roomy. The only problem is the aforementioned leak in the ceiling whenever Simi and Noah shower. But we’re working on that! However, most of the village is still under construction so there are cranes and construction crews all over.

And the GUARDS. They are everywhere, and there must be several hundred volunteers all in blue jackets. The volunteers are super friendly and most speak very good english, but most of the guards don’t say a word. Except when they stop the buses to check everyone’s credentials. I told you – you don’t want to lose that thing!

Once you leave the really modern new strip of housing, things get a little messy. And I do mean that literally since there is mud and water all over, and in some parts of the road all you can smell is sewage. But what I noticed most was the absolute lack of privacy. Some people say “God is always watching”…but now I know the real deal. The Russians are always watching. There are cameras everywhere, along the fences, on the course, in the entrances to buildings.

The dining hall is about an 8-minute walk away, up the side of the bunny hill where little kids in boots up to their knees are bombing around. And what starts out as a waist-high metal fence on the right slowly morphs into a 10-foot tall fence with barbed wire spiraling over the top and cameras mounted in all directions along the wall. On our side of the fence are the new buildings, glass-walled bars, chalets and chairlifts, and on the other side there is mud, construction zones, and containers stacked on containers that provide housing for the workers. And I’m not complaining about a thing because I’m on the right side of that fence!

So here are some things I’ve figured out about Sochi so far:
– The ski trails are amazing – rolling, super wide, and with seperate trials for cross country and biathalon
– There are also two seperate stadiums, and while the biathalon is a permanent structure, the cross country stadium is a temporary one. But it’s still gigantic.
– It doesn’t look like there are other lodging options up here except for the condos, but there is a hotel at the bottom of the gondola where some of the teams are staying.
– There seem to be rules and regulations about so many little things. Like checkpoints, fences, credentials, transport, meal tickets.
– And then sometimes there seem to be no rules at all. Like what time you eat and train at, or whether your wax cabin is unlocked.

The races start on Friday with a skate sprint, Saturday a 15km skiathalon, and Sunday is the classic team sprint. I’m excited to be here and will put up more pictures when I can!

Online Coaching Resources – 100 Great Sites for Coaches

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January 25, 2013 – A great coach can help athletes make the jump from having a promising career to having an Olympic medal. Much time, effort, and research has been put into discovering the best ways of motivating athletes and training their bodies and minds to excel beyond previous human capability in sporting activities. Coaching isn’t just for world-class athletes, though. A middle school football team or a recreational cycling class can be great ways to build athletic prowess, and professional coaches know how to help athletes at all skill levels get the best performance from themselves and their teammates. The sites on this list are kept by highly motivated, skilled, and well-trained coaches who have decided to bring their message of fitness and training to the web.

Check out the list of 100 Great Sites for Coaches as compiled by SportsManagementDegree.org HERE.

Canadian Tire Supports Canada’s Paralympians

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January 24, 2013 (Toronto, ON) – The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) is pleased to announce that Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited (CTC) is now going for gold as a multi-year Premier partner supporting Paralympic athletes across Canada, through to 2016.

“Canadian Tire is an iconic brand and we are thrilled to welcome them to the Canadian Paralympic family,” said David Legg, President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“Not only will Canadian Tire’s investment in high performance sport help our athletes achieve excellence at the Paralympic Games, it will also help us foster the next generation of Canadian athletes through their support of our grassroots funding programs, helping make the benefits of sport accessible to more Canadians.”

As part of this partnership, the CPC will work with CTC to increase opportunities for Canadians with a disability to participate in organized sport and active living.

“At Canadian Tire, we believe in the power of sport to inspire greatness and change the lives of all Canadians,” said Duncan Fulton, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited and Chief Marketing Officer, FGL Sports, Ltd. “From playground to podium, we will play a role in helping Canadian families and amateur athletes succeed and are pleased to work with the Canadian Paralympic Committee in communities across Canada to promote participation in sport and active living.”

Benoit Huot and Summer Mortimer, multiple gold medallist swimmers from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, were onsite for the announcement of the partnership, which will continue through the next two Paralympic Games – Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016.

“To achieve greatness requires commitment and Canadian Tire has shown its commitment in spades here today, to Paralympians and to the country itself, by helping ensure Canada’s strong and vibrant sporting heritage,” said Huot, a 19-time Paralympic medalist and Canada’s closing ceremony flag bearer at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Mortimer, who won four swimming medals in London, added: “It is thanks to the investment by corporate partners such as Canadian Tire that I can maintain my focus and ensure I am properly prepared to represent Canada on the world stage with my teammates at the next Paralympic Games in Rio.”

In addition to its agreement with the CPC, CTC also confirmed new and expanded partnership agreements with the Canadian Soccer Association, Skate Canada, Hockey Canada, Alpine Canada Alpin, Canada Snowboard, all designed to inspire Canadians and encourage lifelong healthy and active living through the ‘power of sport.’

CTC and Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities also plan to work with Own the Podium and the Canadian Olympic Foundation to help more kids get in the game.

Tara Whitten Named Honorary President of Gatineau Loppet

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January 16, 2013 (Gatineau, QC) – In one month, from February 15th to 17th, 2013, the start of the Gatineau Loppet, the largest cross-country ski event in Canada, will be given. It’s in a festive spirit that the organizing committee unveiled today a few surprises for the 35th edition!

A Very Special Guest
The President of the Gatineau Loppet, Mr. Yan Michaud, said he was “extremely pleased to announce Tara Whitten as Honorary President of the event.” The 32-years-old athlete made her mark in cross-country skiing with her silver medal at the 2003 Under-23 World Championships, by winning the Gatineau Loppet’s 50 km freestyle in 2004 and also for competing as a member of Team Canada, in the 2005 Senior World Championships. In 2008, she exclusively devoted herself to cycling, where she was crowned Omnium World Champion on the track in 2010-2011 and also won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics in team pursuit. The young woman, native of Edmonton, is “delighted to reconnect with cross-country skiing for the 35th anniversary of the event.” She will participate in the 55 km classic on Saturday and also in the 10 km freestyle on Sunday: “Come and ski with me on February 16th and 17th, 2013 at the Gatineau Loppet!”.

New linear Courses
The Organizing Committee wishes to remind all skiers that for the 35th anniversary of the Gatineau Loppet, two new linear courses of 55 and 38 km classic starting from Philippe Lake will be inaugurated. Participants of these two races will have the opportunity to ski for the first time through the beautiful scenery of three municipalities; La Pêche, Chelsea and Gatineau.

Hall of Fame
As a legacy for the 35th anniversary of the Gatineau Loppet, the “Trail of Legends” Hall of Fame will be inaugurated. The organizing committee wishes to honor individuals or organizations that have marked the event or contributed significantly to the development of cross-country skiing. The first member of the “Gatineau Loppet Trail of Legends” will be presented during the Ice Worldoppet Cocktail hold February 16th at Mont Bleu High School.
For more information, visit our website at gatineauloppet.com.

SkiTrax FIS Fantasy Tour de Ski 2012/13 Contest Final Standings and Winners after Stage 7 in Val di Fiemme

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January 15, 2013 (Toronto, ON) – We are excited to announce the final SkiTrax FIS Tour de Ski 2012/13 Fantasy Contest standings after stage 7 in Val di Fiemme, Italy. In another dramatic turn of events, the top three spots changed completely, with Team Fratuzzi TdS leaping to the top of the standings with a total of 1,019 points. Team Powered by Biscuits secured second place with 1,002 points, followed by Team Kostroma Russia in third with 996 points.

Stage 7 saw the USA’s Liz Stephen score her second podium of the season with the second fastest time up Alpe Cermis, behind climbing star Therese Johaug (NOR), while Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) took home the overall TdS victory – read more here. On the men’s side, Ivan Babikov pulled through for Team Canada, claiming the second fastest time on the stage for yet another Canuck podium and his best-ever overall Tour result in 7th. The final stage up Cermis was won by Sweden’s Marcus Hellner and the overall men’s title was claimed for the first time by Russia’s Alexander Legkov – read more here.

For the contest standings after Stage 7 in Val di Fiemme click HERE.

As we wrap up the SkiTrax FIS Tour de Ski 2012/13 Fantasy Contest, we’d like to congratulate the winners, thank all of our contestants, and once again thank all of our great sponsors, including Mont Ste-Anne, Alpina, One Way, Marwe, Halti, 2XU, Fresh Air Experience, High Peaks Cyclery, CCC, Auclair, and Buff.

SkiTrax FIS Fantasy Tour de Ski 2012/13 Contest Winners

 – Fratuzzi TdS – Anton Burmelev – Minsk, Belarus
1st Prize
Mont Ste-Anne – 2 nights lodging w/breakfast + 3-day XC gift certificate, tune-up (value $800)

– Powered by Biscuits – Jacob Scheckman – Minneapolis, MN
2nd Prize
Alpina ESK Ski Boots (value $419)

– Team Kostroma Russia – Alexander Orlov – Kostroma, Russia
3rd Prize
One Way Premio Ski Poles (value $400)

– fleur – Simone Berrod – Fleurie, France
4th Prize
Marwe 610c Roller Skis (value $349)

– karukoobas – Rain Kuldjari – Harjumaa, Estonia
5th Prize
Halti XC Race Suit Hemmo Set (value $269)

– Maffe – Marius Urstad – Rogaland, Norway
6th Prize
2XU Long Sleeve Thermal Compression Top and Elite Socks (value $195)

– mlynek – Pawel Mlynski – Warsaw, Poland
7th PrizeFresh Air Experience or High Peaks Cyclery Gift Certificate (value $150)

– birks ski – Birgit Hanilane – Paulvamaa, Estonia
8th Prize – Two free CCC Inside Track Rewards Cards plus a $50 Gift Card to the CCC e-store (value $100)

– AndreFTW – Andre Marchand – Masham, QC
9th Prize
Auclair Micro Mountain Olympic Gloves + Earbags (value $65)

– RK Ski Team – Siim Sarapu – Virumaa, Estonia
10th Prize Buff Headware (value $23)

SkiTrax is North America’s leading Nordic skiing publication and the official magazine of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and Cross Country Canada (CCC).

Interviews w/Canada’s Gaiazova and Valjas after Liberec WCup Sprints

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January 14, 2013 (Liberec, Czech Republic) – Check out these audio interviews with Canada’s Dash Gaiazova and Len Valjas following the Liberec World Cup sprints on the weekend. Gaiazova had a stellar day on the 1.3 CL course, finishing just off the podium in fourth. In the team sprint, Gaiazova and Perianne Jones finished 11th. Gaiazova is coming off of recent podium finishes on the OPA Cup circuit.

Valjas was the top Canadian man of the day in Liberac’s 1.6 CL event in 10th place. It was the rangy Canadian’s first race back after the grueling Tour de Ski during which he delivered the country’s first World Cup medal of the season.



SkiTrax FIS Fantasy Tour de Ski 2012/13 Contest Standings after Stage 6 in Val di Fiemme

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January 11, 2013 (Toronto, ON) – We are pleased to announce the SkiTrax FIS Tour de Ski 2012/13 Fantasy Contest standings after stage 6 in Val di Fiemme, Italy. In an exciting twist, Team Iisaku has taken charge with 632 points, trailed by ZIS XC with a mere one-point deficit. Team Mavericks has moved up into third place with 627 points.

Stage 6 was the day Canada earned a double podium in the men’s 15km CL competition, courtesy of Len Valjas and Alex Harvey – read more here. On the women’s side, Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) continued to dominate the field, while USA’s Kikkan Randall finished a strong 11th in the 10km CL race – read more here.

With only one stage to go, we’d like to wish all contestants good luck and once again thank all of our great sponsors, including Mont Ste-Anne, Alpina, One Way, Marwi, Halti, 2XU, Fresh Air Experience, High Peaks Cyclery, CCC, Auclair, and Buff.

For the contest standings after Stage 6 in Val di Fiemme click HERE.

* 1st Prize Mont Ste-Anne – 2 nights lodging w/breakfast + 3-day XC gift certificate, tune-up (value $800)
* 2nd PrizeAlpina ESK Ski Boots (value $419)
* 3rd PrizeOne Way Premio Ski Poles (value $400)
* 4th PrizeMarwe 610c Roller Skis (value $349)
* 5th PrizeHalti XC Race Suit Hemmo Set (value $269)
* 6th Prize2XU Long Sleeve Thermal Compression Top and Elite Socks (value $195)
* 7th PrizeFresh Air Experience or High Peaks Cyclery Gift Certificate (value $150)
* 8th Prize – Two free CCC Inside Track Rewards Cards plus a $50 Gift Card to the CCC e-store (value $100)
* 9th Prize Auclair Micro Mountain Olympic Gloves + Earbags (value $65)
* 10th Prize Buff Headware (value $23)

SkiTrax is North America’s leading Nordic skiing publication and the official magazine of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and Cross Country Canada (CCC).

Kikkan Randall’s Q&A – Training and Strength

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January 10, 2013 – Kikkan Randall’s 2012/13 season is off to a blistering start with numerous WCup wins and podiums, so it’s no wonder Morgan wants to know Randall’s strength workouts and training secrets. Read what Randall reveals and… check out Randall’s Training Rap HERE and check her MAILBAG for all Q&As thru the season.

Q&A – Training and Strength

You are SO beast!!
I was just wondering what kind of strength training and normal training you do to become one of the best in world. It’s so inspiring to watch you race and do so well. :)

Hi Morgan,
Thanks for the compliments and your question. Strength is one of my favorite parts of my training plan. A few years ago I began working with a US Ski Team strength and conditioning coach to redesign my strength training plan and since then I have seen big improvements in my skiing. We’ve focused more on mobility and balance in the body, i.e. not just hitting the ski muscles all the time, and on some specific power and quickness stuff for my sprinting.

When I was younger, I did a lot of basic strength exercises like pull-ups, push-ups and core exercises, as well as jumping and sprinting uphill. This provides a good base and when you get older, you can get more specific.

Best of luck!

Kikkan :)

NNF Funded U23/Jr. World Nordic Championship, U18/J1 Scando Cup Teams Named

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January 10, 2013 – Congratulations to all the athletes named to represent the USA at the U23 and World Junior Nordic Championships and the U18/J1 Scando Cup. Their hard work, dedication, and outstanding performance earned them the right to compete against the best skiers their age in the world while representing our country and our American Nordic community.

The NNF is contributing $93,000 in support of these trips ($81,000 XC, and $12,000 NC). Thanks to the support of this American Nordic community and the NNF’s Drive for 25 fundraising efforts we are sending these athletes to go up against the World’s best at a significantly reduced cost them. This ensures the athletes can afford to go and have the coaching support that is necessary to succeed. We thank all the NNF supporters for making this happen. Stay tuned to see how our young athletes do.

U23 and JR World Championship Cross Country Team Liberec, CZE (Jan. 20-27)

U23/World Junior Championships + PreCamp
– NNF will fund $45,600 of $64,025 total trip cost.
– Athletes pay $700 for the races and $200 for the 5-day pre-camp. (not including airfare).

Post Championship Continental Cups
– NNF will fund $17,000 of $25,000 total trip cost. Athletes pay $675

U23 World Championship Cross Country Team

– Sophie Caldwell (SMS T2)
– Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Green Racing Project)
– Annie Pokorny (Middlebury College)
– Annie Hart (Dartmouth College)
– Elizabeth Guiney (University of New Hampshire)

– Erik Bjornsen (APU/USST)
– Skyler Davis (SMS T2/USST)
– David Norris (Montana State University)
– Eric Packer (SMS T2)
– Sam Tarling (Dartmouth)

World Junior Championship Cross Country Team

– Mary O’Connell (Dartmouth College)
– Corey Stock (Dartmouth College)
– Heather Mooney (Middlebury College)
– Anika Miller (Payette Lakes Sports)
– Sloan Storey (University of Utah)
– Emily Hannah (SSWSC/Harvard University)

– Logan Hanneman (University of Alaska, Fairbanks)
– Ben Saxton (F.A.S.T. Performance Training)
– Tucker McCrerey (University of Utah)
– Kyle Bratrud (Northern Michigan University)
– Sawyer Kesselheim (Bridger Ski Foundation)
– Forest Mahlen (APU Nordic Ski Center)

World Junior Championship Nordic Combined Team

– NNF will fund $12,000 of $22,600 in trip costs. Athletes pay $1,108 (not including airfare).

Interview w/Canadian Biathlete Rosanna Crawford

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January 09, 2013 (Canmore, AB) – Rosanna Crawford, the 24-year-old biathlete from Canmore, Alberta has had the most successful world cup start of her career thus far, regularly finishing in the top 30 and just out of the top ten at the Pokljuka World Cup Sprint with a career-high 12th-place finish.  SkiTrax caught up with Crawford as she prepared to return to Europe for the next rounds of World Cup racing and the World Championships to talk about her breakout season, how she spent the holiday break, and what she expects for the rest of the season.
How satisfied are you with your performance for the first part of the season?
Rosanna Crawford: I am really happy with how the start of the season went. My goal had been to get a couple top 30’s but after Sweden to be making top-30 every race and getting a top-12 was pretty exciting.
Has your skiing been what you expected?  How about your shooting?
RC: My skiing has improved a lot since last year and I am happy with how things are shaping up. I usually get faster as the season goes on. Shooting has been better than last year but still not where I want it to be. I think my shooting average is 81% and to be around 86% or 87% would be ideal for me.
What have you been up to since the last World Cup in Pokljuka, Slovenia?
RC: Since I got home I spent some time with my family and boyfriend and enjoyed the amazing Canmore Nordic Centre. Brendan [Green] and I also spent two nights up at Mt. Engadine lodge up the Spray Valley, which was incredible! It got pretty cold here over Christmas, so there was a lot of -25 classic skis!
What do you want to improve on during this next block of World Cup racing?
RC: For this next block of racing I would like to improve my shooting percentage in the four-bout races. And keep working on consistent loop times.
What are your expectations heading into the World Championships in Nove Mesto?
RC: For World Champs right now I am focusing on what I can control, trying not to think too much about results, but the process of biathlon. I think a good goal would be top 30’s and shooting average of 85%. I didn’t attend the World Cup race there last year, but it was tough shooting conditions – really windy and foggy. I’m flying over on Sunday and our first race will be the relay in Ruhpolding on Wednesday!
Good luck in the rest of your season.
RC: Cheers.

TdS Tweets from the Stars

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December 28, 2012 (Oberhof, Germany) – On the eve of the popular FIS Tour de Ski, the world’s best xc-ski athletes are as excited as the fans – the proof is in their tweets! Check out the latest Twitter posts and photos straight from the skiers’ mouths – ahem – smartphones. Everyone’s getting amped for one of the season’s most exciting nine days in skiing that starts Dec. 29 in Oberhof, Germany and ends on Jan. 6 in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

What not to get Petter Northug for Xmas – click HERE.

Babs on the Canadian Team bus… check it out HERE.

Organizers trucking in snow for the Tour kick-off in Oberhof, Germany – check it out HERE.

Axel Teichmann leads and strong German contingent on home snow – click HERE.

Canada’s Chandra Crawford is not at the Tour but we love this a great Peace on Earth photo – click HERE.

Canadian Sport Centre Pacific Announces New Name, Mission – Canadian Sport Institute

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December 27, 2012 (Victoria, B.C.) – After years of preparation, Canadian Sport Centre Pacific is excited to be evolving to Canadian Sport Institute*. The institute designation, recently granted by Sport Canada and Own the Podium, is a reflection of the organization now being a world class Olympic and Paralympic training environment. Leading nations across the globe also boast ‘sport institutes’ for high performance athletes. As a result, the name change indicates Canada’s strength and parity as a sporting nation on a global level.

To build a sport institute, you need excellent personnel, programs and facilities. Through hard work and careful planning, the Canadian Sport Institute has created a facility-based system to service Olympic, Paralympic and up-and-coming athletes across British Columbia. Having everything under one roof is the key to success. From performance planning, biomechanical analysis, physiology and sport nutrition to strength and conditioning, athletic therapy, mental performance consultation and massage therapy, BC-based athletes and coaches have all the help they need to win medals for Canada.

“Through the support of our national and provincial partners, we work to power podium performances for Canada,” explains Wendy Pattenden, CEO of the Canadian Sport Institute. “Now that we are recognized as a sport institute, this designation reiterates our desire to compete and win against the best of the best. Our team is determined to do everything possible to ensure BC and Canadian athletes and coaches succeed on the world stage.”

Canadian Sport Institute’s three main locations are found in Victoria at PISE, in Vancouver at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre, and in Whistler at the Whistler Athletes’ Centre. Here, athletes and coaches are serviced by 60 of the best scientists and practitioners in their fields, some of them Olympic medallists themselves.

A member of the national Institute network (also located in Calgary, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic), Canadian Sport Institute’s reach is province-wide. The Canadian Sport Institute provides provincial oversight on high performance programs and services for athletes and coaches in partnership with viaSport British Columbia and the PacificSport regional sport centres in Northern BC, the Interior, the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan, and on Vancouver Island.

For complete details about the Canadian Sport Institute and all of our programs and services, please visit www.csipacific.ca.

Bjoergen Will Not Race TdS – Hospitalized Due to Irregular Heartbeat

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December 24, 2012 – An abnormally high pulse in training Saturday morning prompted Norwegian Marit Bjørgen to go to the hospital, and on Sunday, the defending World Cup champion was discharged after being examined for cardiac dysrhythmia, also known as arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.

Without knowing the full extent of her rhythmic disturbances, coach Egil Kristiansen said they wouldn’t be taking any chances.

“I can say for sure is that she is not going to the Tour de Ski,” he told NRK.no, adding that there’s no reason to worry about Bjørgen ending her career due to heart disorders.

The 32-year-old first detected an unusually high heart beat at practice Friday. She took another reading on Saturday and contacted a private physician, Hans Petter Stokke. Bjørgen was then admitted to St. Olav’s Hospital with what appeared to be cardiac dysrhythmia and spent the night there.

She returned home Sunday to her family with electrodes attached to her body for doctors to detect future abnormalities in her heart’s rhythm.

“The intention is to do research of heart rhythm disturbance while actually happening,” Stokke said.

“To my knowledge, there is no more serious than that she may soon start training again,” Kristiansen said. “But it’s important that she does not burden your body too much. Tour de Ski is a huge burden, so it goes without saying that she can not attend there.”

“She’s an incredibly tough lady, and there is no doubt that Bjoergen will come out stronger from this,” teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla told NRK. “I think she will use it as motivation towards the World Cup in February.”

Another young teammate, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, 22, said she was “very put out” by the news, but was glad everything turned out well.

“I have great faith that she comes back even stronger,” Østberg said. ”She is so strong both physically and mentally.”

“Fitness-wise, we live pretty similar lives,” Petter Northug said. “It is sad that she loses Tour de Ski, but when all is said and done it does not mean anything. It is health that is most important.”

Read the NRK article HERE.

Diggins Report – What Eurosport Doesn’t Show You

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December 24, 2012 – I finally got time to sit down and load up a bunch of pictures I’ve taken the past few days… and I realized that there’s a lot going on in a World Cup weekend that the TV doesn’t show you. So, here’s some of the World Cup scene the way I see it!

Simply put, CHEERING. IS. HARD. WORK. You have to walk up to the venue hours early to get a good spot, put on a ton of facepaint, make up incredible posters… and my family and friends were up to the challenge! (the Go Team USA poster is currently residing in our wax cabin here in Canmore). To the fans out standing on their feet for hours and losing their voices: you make a difference. You really do!

FIS usually puts out drinks and snacks for the athletes, coaches and wax techs, the latter of which put in these ridiculous long hours at the venue. Next they’ll have to put futons in the wax cabins so they can get some rest! I’m only half joking here. But in Quebec (and most everywhere) the venue had a really nice warm tent.

And then there’s a lot of goofing off and joking around that isn’t always caught on camera. But when it is, it’s awesome.

Because the wax cabins in Quebec were a little ways away from the actual race course and we didn’t want to be running around the road in our ski boots, we set up a row of spin bikes inside this iron fence next to the start access area.

Given the row of iron spikes at hip level, that fence was very hard to climb safely.

And we felt a lot like zoo animals when the media gathered on the other side of the fence to watch us warming up on the bikes… animals in our “natural habitat”!

So… traveling to Canmore! It was a nice 5-hour flight, and on the way I made friends with the flight attendants. They were super fun to talk to and learn about the work schedule and travel involved in flying for a job… theirs sounded not unlike the crazy schedules of an athlete!

Once we got to Canmore, I was so excited to see all these adorable posters that kids made and stuck in the wax cabins, athlete room, and even along the sides of the road and bike paths! This picture is just one of literally HUNDREDS of posters. AWESOME.

The coffee shops here are also pretty sweet. And by that I mean that every single afternoon we’ve gone to visit one of them.

There’s been a weird cold floating around the team, and last night I opened the hotel door to see Andy giving Sylvan a “get well soon” serenade. The song played? Acoustic version of “Lets Get It On”. He’s a wicked good guitar player and by the time he was finished singing doors all down the hallway were propped open!

I don’t know any other teams that are this much of a family on the road. Just sayin.

The trails in Canmore are:

1. Perfectly groomed. The trackes were… well… perfect!

2. Insanely wide. There were 4 classic tracks and room for a couple skaters in-between. The picture above is actually one of the side trails but the race trails are much bigger.

3. Wicked hard. The race trails have some monster climbs that would be challenging to pace correctly at any altitude, but then the air at 4,500 ft adds a whole new level. At least, when you’re coming off sea level it does!

Check out this huge stadium!

Last but not least – the USST is streaming the races LIVE on their website! Check it out, don’t miss a second of the exciting action: www.usskiteam.com

I’m not racing today because I am not feeling healthy and have to sit it out, which is a major bummer, but hopefully I’ll bounce back in time for the weekend races. In the meantime, please cheer extra loud for my teammates out there this morning!

Heidi Widmer Blog – Party in the Backyard

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December 24, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – The weekend I had been dreaming about all summer and fall has come and passed. Not an ounce of adrenaline was left unused in Canmore as we played host to the World Cup at the Nordic Centre as well as downtown. I put on a bib for the 10km mass start classic, skate sprint and 15km pursuit – meaning I’ve raced more World Cups this season than domestic!?

I can walk away from this weekend knowing I did everything in my power to lay down a good race, but yes, I am disappointed with the outcome. Outcomes or results are always hard to be completely satisfied with. As much as I focus on the process and journey of training and racing, there will always be a result at the end of the day and being able to take something positive from the experience is what I believe the result is there for. How will this result make me better? I can tell you one thing, dwelling on a number on a results page is not how to move forward but learning from the movement, actions and mindset that gave you that result will.

The 10km classic race was my first distance World Cup and being seeded at the back, I felt I had a great opportunity to make my way through the pack. First things first, I needed to be in the pack. Unfortunately, I was way too focused on staying with the pack than I was with skiing the way I needed to. My legs were blown, my lungs fried and mental mindset was just awful. The biggest blow ups seem to happen on the biggest stages and it took every fighting inch of me to finish this race. The fan support on the side of the trail didn’t seem to notice that I was taking up the rear – so I decided not to dwell on that either! Having an extremely hard race like this, however hard to swallow in the moment, was necessary preparation for me for the weekend.

Saturday was sprint day and the buzz of energy that had been brewing in me throughout the summer was about to be let loose! I felt confident, nervous (definitely nervous) and prepared. I raced that course the way I wanted to, the way I had practiced and channeled all the energy of the crowd into propelling me forward. I crossed the line in 31st position, needing a top 30 result to qualify for the sprint heats. It is so bizarre to think about a small fraction of time separating me from the top 30 having such an amplified effect. Taking a tighter line here, pushing harder there and being stronger would all have helped me get to the line a little faster which is what will keep me motivated for the future World Cups. I am getting closer. Slowly but surely. Patience is something I have never been good at but I feel like I have a good thing coming and know it will be worth the wait!

My final result of the day was 34th position but I live vicariously through my teammates today. My bro, Phil, in particular posted his personal best 15th overall on the World Cup. Jess Cockney can’t be left unmentioned either, qualifying 2nd?! So inspiring having fast people around – talent and fitness are contagious right? Or maybe it’s through osmosis that I’ll get my boost.

The last bib of 2012 for me was in the 15km Pursuit. Nervous? Yup. Tired? Definitely. I was adamant that I wouldn’t go out without a fight and was so thankful that I had that within me today. I finished today as the 50th woman across the line and over 6 minutes back from the leader but as far as a distance World Cup goes – it was amazing. I had a fight, put it to good use and gradually picked off racers in the pack. I am really happy with the end to the weekend and will be using this momentum to propel me forward in the next couple weeks of training.

An incredibly HUGE thank you to the support of the volunteers, sponsors, families, friends, community and event organizers for putting on such an amazing show. Canmore has truly made a name for itself on the world stage.

I have some time in the Bow Valley to get in some quality training as we have a break from the racing circuit until the New Year. Our next big races are in Thunder Bay, Ontario for the U23 and World Championship qualification. My performance there will determine the shape of the rest of my season and I couldn’t be more excited about dat.

In the meantime, I have some Christmas crafting to do and training to tackle.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

Donate to the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s “Pass The Torch” Campaign

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December 14, 2012 (Ottawa, ON) – Looking to make a difference this holiday season? Instead of battling crowds at the mall, make a donation in your loved one’s name – give the gift of sport!

And feel good about your spending this season.

A donation to the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s “Pass The Torch” fundraising campaign will help support Canada’s next generation of athletes with a disability. All donations are tax-deductible.

Every child deserves the chance to play sports, however it can be expensive for kids with a disability to get started – and that’s something we can all help change!

Funds raised will help provide these young people with the proper equipment to pursue an athletic career.

– A pair of hockey skates can cost $200, but a sled for sledge hockey costs $550.
– Good running shoes might set parents back $100, but a quality sports wheelchair to race or play basketball in is worth $3,000.
– Getting involved in able-bodied skiing costs around $800, but buying a sit ski can cost over $3,200.

By contributing to Pass the Torch, Canadians can play a big part in providing kids with a disability with the opportunity to take part in sports.

Help families connect their kids to parasport. Please visit www.passthetorch.ca to donate.

On behalf of Team Canada – Thank You!

Interview w/Kikkan Randall after FIS Quebec City Sprint WCup

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December 11, 2012 (Quebec City, QC) – SkiTrax caught up with U.S. skiing star Kikkan Randall after the press conference in Quebec City following her exciting FIS XC Ski World Cup team and individual sprint wins on the weekend – she is now leading the Sprint Cup which she won last season. Randall then signed autographs for her fans. The Alaska star is ramping up for Canada’s second World Cup stop, which takes place Dec. 13-16 in Canmore, AB.

Interviews w/the Nishikawas, Webster and Eriksson at Haywood NorAm in Sovereign Lake

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December 10, 2012 (Sovereign Lake, B.C.) – Check out this video interview with the winning brother and sister duo of Graham and Emily Nishikawa after they took individual victories in the 10/15k free races at the Haywood Nor Am/Teck BC Cup at Sovereign Lake near Vernon, B.C. Also, check out interviews with Brittany Webster and Sweden’s Jens Eriksson

Kershaw Report: November Scando Racing Madness

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December 06, 2012 (St. Ferreol les Neiges, QC) – It’s December. I almost had to tell myself out loud of that fact this morning when I rollerskied through the ice and grime that covered the streets of St. Ferreol les Neiges hugging the tarmac like the hair on my upper lip this past November. I guess I also had to remind myself of the month – because it’s a rarity these days that I’m back in Canada during the winter months.

November is always a busy month – lots of racing, lots of travel all coupled with very little sunlight and culinary disaster. I’ve already raced three weeks this season, two of which were the first two World Cup stops of the 2012/13 year. I’ll take a moment to fill you in on the happenings of Northern Scandinavia – with some brief race reports from the opening weekends of racing this November.

Also – big thanks to all that donated to “Movember” and “the Snow Mos” this year – together we can make a difference in men’s health. In that spirit get a load of these two beauty shots of Lenny – bringing his Mo to the next level.
Ostersund/Bruksvallarna, SWE

It may sound like I’ve written this report before – and that’s probably because I have last year. The past few years our team begins our winter campaign smack in the middle of Sweden. In a slight plot twist, I traveled to Oslo November 2nd for a fabulous week in the Norwegian capital before meeting the team in the Jämtland capital of Ostersund for our annual pre-season on snow Euro camp.

Like last year, there was no natural snow, and my first ski in Sweden was an uninspiring burn around a 2.5min loop. The dizziness subsided every couple days as the loop gradually improved thanks to a wonderful group of passionate volunteers and staff of the Ostersund Ski Club – as they spread out the saved snow from last winter (like what Canmore does now with their “Frozen Thunder” project) to prepare the trails for the World Cup of biathlon season openers that take place there. By the time we left Ostersund they had 4km of great skiing available.

On the training side of things, November is a busy month – not only with racing but also with hours. To be ready and keep consistent in the meat of the season (January, February, March) we’ve realized that I need to log a decent amount of miles – short loops or not – so I trained quite hard both in Ostersund, and afterwards.

The “actual” racing season started over in Bruksvallarna (the site of the Swedish FIS openers – a 3hr drive West of Ostersund) and conditions there were fairly decent with thin natural snow cover, longer skiing options (for training), and great snow cover on the race courses – which are twisty with no real huge climbs or working sections. Think – ghetto amusement park rollercoaster.

After some discussion, Justin and I decided to compete only in the 15km skate (what I did last year) and like last year I was brutal finishing a disappointing 10th – blowing up fiercely in the last 3km of the course, where I gave up a whopping 50 seconds. Racing is hard – super hard – but at this time of year, it appears I struggle to digest the heavy load of training I’m under, leaving me feeling flat for some weeks. I guess it was a better outing than last November – when I finished outside the top 30 – but I was both exhausted physically at the end (the last tuck down the last hill made a bit of a buzz on Swedish blogs for my unorthodox tucking technique (think: hands on knees with straight legs trying as hard as I can to not just fall over) and obviously disappointed with the result.

Gallivare, SWE – World Cup Opener
While Ostersund can be grey and windy – the town itself is great and the giant/beautiful lake (5th largest in Sweden apparently) is stunning. It’s actually a beautiful little city all around with great little cafés, nice walking streets – a cool place to hang out. Gallivare by contrast is…well… different. For starters it’s dark. I mean, hella’ dark this time of year – the sky brightens for some hours between the hours of 10:30 – 13:30, but aside from that it’s like what I’d imagine living in a freezer would feel like. Sometimes there’s some light (when someone opens the freezer drawer), but for the most part in the late autumn it’s black and cold. The town itself is of course smaller, doesn’t have a lot going on – but that’s fine seeing how we are there for the specific purpose of ski racing – and it does have a great little café downtown with stellar espresso.

One thing Gallivare does have this time of year is natural snow, great skiing, and very enthusiastic volunteers and fans that love to cheer on their local hero, World and Olympic Champ – Marcus Hellner – who has lived there for roughly 10 years.

The weekend of racing got of to a bit of a rough start. The 15km skate on the Saturday wasn’t great. While I didn’t blow up – I was never able to get going – stuck in that threshold type speed. I started controlled, but I wasn’t able to convert later in the race (when I needed to change gears and start charging for the last 5km) finishing a distant 44th. Of course, I was pretty disappointed – but the beginning of each season seems to be a lesson in patience for me. Last season I was 37th in the same race (in Sjusoen, NOR), and the season before (in Gallivare), I ended up in the 50s – 58th I think. A far cry from the podiums I expect later in the year.

The bright spots of the weekend was Babs’ 16th place finish Saturday, and Sunday’s 4×7.5km relay. I skied the 2nd (a classic leg) leg and the feelings were much better. I still felt I lacked that punch/snappy feeling but better I moved well and made up some ground for our team. When it was all said and done, our team made some history with a Canadian World Cup best finish – 5th! We were only seconds from the podium and it gave us all a lot of confidence for the World Championships later this year. If we are all in good form, I really believe that we are capable of something really special.

The Ruka-Triple (mini-tour) – Kuusamo, FIN (2nd stop on the World Cup)
After Gallivare we all crammed into vans and rolled East into Finland – driving the 6 odd hours south(kind of)east through grey skies and hordes of reindeer that seem completely indifferent to traffic – like they are props in a Santa Claus parade instead of wild animals and have been told not to move for anything or anybody.

The Ruka triple consists of 3 races in 3 days – a classic sprint first (1.4km – on the Friday), followed by a 10km skate (Saturday) and finishing it off with a pursuit start 15km classic (Sunday) – the best cumulative time takes the win (like the Tour de Ski type format).

Day 1 was awful for the Canadian men. Ooohhhhh lordy, was it rough – I liken the speed to attempting to swimming through a pool of full-fat eggnog. No Canadian men qualified for the top 30, and I ended up a dismal 62nd place. Not where I wanted to be. I felt like there was just no power whatsoever in the body – especially in double pole. The bright spot was that Peri matched her best-ever result on the World Cup with a 12th place finish and Dasha with a solid 14th in the women’s race.

The following day – the 10km skate – was very similar to Gallivare’s 15km. I felt like I was stuck in zone 3. I started conservatively and when I willed my body to turn it over – again, there was no gears to switch into. I ended up 35th – again, not where I wanted to be. I was actually really, really disappointed with that one. I didn’t even check results when I finished and finished my cool down – instead I just ate lunch quickly and crawled into bed for a nap. It was a huge effort (the race), and I knew the velocity was too slow. I was so bummed out – and broke my “no being bummed out when you get back to the hotel from the race site” rule.

After an hour of sulking at a pretty extreme level, I re-focused on getting ready for the last day – Sunday’s 15km classic. After two not-so-great races I started further back in the order – 36th – compared to what I’m used to (in Falun last year by contrast in a similar style mini-tour I started the last day sitting 3rd…) and in the race itself worked through the field slowly but surely – finishing in 22nd overall. I moved up 14 places and had the 16th fastest time on the day – which was a solid step in the right direction. Again, the body felt heavy and again I lacked the power/snap and on the climbs (Kuusamo’s courses are notoriously steep and long) I felt terrible, but I stayed present as best I could and willed everything out of my body I could muster. Finally all our men were in the points (the top 30) with me finishing 22nd, Alex 23rd and Babs’ 25th in the overall standings. It’s coming.

The feelings I had for the first three weekends of racing are almost identical to how I felt last year – as are the results in those races. It seems the pre-Christmas races are a true lesson in patience and perspective. I know I’ve done a plethora of high quality work this year and I believe in our plan to be 100% ready to rock and roll come late February/March – but as a competitor it’s hard to unplug, be patient, stay positive and be good to yourself (ie. not beat yourself up too badly) when the results aren’t where you want them to be. Like a hockey player that grips his stick too hard – his once loose hands turning instead to concrete – it’s hard not to press and do what you know you need to do – mainly to “let go” knowing that as long as you give your full and absolute best effort race in, race out – the outcome will most definitely only get better.

I didn’t have a ton of time to dwell on November, as after the race on Sunday we flew to Helsinki to spend a (very) short night there in an airport hotel before we began the long journey back to Quebec on Monday – which is where I am right now.

It feels great to be back in Canada and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to race at home. I’m hanging out at Alex’s house (with Lenny staying here as well) in MSA, and while there is no snow on the ground, the vibe is awesome. We had such a great dinner last night when we arrived (thanks Alex’s awesome GF – Sophie!), and to be in a comfortable home instead of a hotel is a really nice change. Watching Monday Night Football last night was a pretty nice perk too I must say.

We don’t have a whole lot of time to enjoy “normal” life as this Friday the Quebec World Cups begin in the province’s capital. First up is the team sprint, which Alex and I are really looking forward to – followed by Saturday’s 1.7km individual sprint competition. While my body has been feeling sluggish and lacking power/snap which are both so necessary for sprint racing, I know that things can change fast. Regardless how the results end up – I’m so excited to race in Quebec and it’s hard to believe it’s the first time the province has held a World Cup competition. It’s going to be an amazing show and the support and passion in the province for cross country skiing is far and away the best in the country – so to race in front of so many fired up fans will be exhilarating.

That’s the long-winded news from me. As for now, I think I’ll retire to the couch with a glass of egg nog, watch a ski movie and then prepare an amazingly boss dinner of fresh halibut & scallops (Len will stick to steak) before hitting up a (hopefully) long, restful sleep.

On a completely non-ski related topic…

November I crushed three decent books – here’s what went down this month:

–       “1982” by Jian Ghomeshi. I thought the family history sections were great and entertaining. The word “David Bowie” was perhaps printed a thousand or so too many times, but enjoyable none-the-less. If you aren’t familiar with Jian’s CBC radio program “Q” – it’s worth checking out. Plus – 1982 was the best year ever. Just saying (thanks mom and dad).

–       “Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet” by Jamie Ford. A story dealing with relationships during the Japanese internment of World War Two in Seattle. Pretty moving story, ok-written. A bit far fetched, and kind of a Romeo/Juliet thing going on (if you’ve read it you’ll understand that loose link) but it’s a novel after all.

–       “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay. Another WW2 story – dealing with the Holocaust and the Vel’ D’hiv round-up in Paris in 1942. Again – I enjoyed it, I found it powerful, sad at times and again – decently written.

–       In addition to the books, I’m still on a diet of a New Yorker a week. Standard awesomely written articles – great for traveling.

Spinning in the headphones is the same tunes as normal. Back to listening to a lot of Wilco, Rural Alberta Advantage, Band of Horses, Shins, Radical Face, etc… I don’t know what it is about N. Scando – but I crush depressing music up there. As well, “This American Life” and “Planet Money” – both NPR podcasts that are always both entertaining and well done.

On the movie front – while I don’t watch many movies, shows, etc… very often on the road – preferring to scratch away very poorly on my guitar I lug around, read and listen to music – we have watched some of the latest ski movies released this autumn. We’ve gone through “Superheroes of Stoke, The Dream Factory and a Norwegian film “Being There (which I thought was really well done!)” and re-watching last year’s “All.I.Can” so far. Perhaps a little dangerous so early in the racing season – as I’m getting fired up for spring ski touring already – which probably isn’t the best seeing how December just begun, but what can you do. The powder will be there come April (at least that’s what I tell myself to fall asleep at night).

Rock and roll – if you’re in the Quebec City area come on out and watch the action Friday and Saturday (check HERE for all the info) and if you are in Canmore from December 13th – 16th (assuming the world won’t end of course the day before…) come on up to the Nordic Centre and watch. I mean, you won’t find a better World Cup venue on earth – their website for all the deets’ is HERE.

The Sasseville Report – Things I Think I Know after Ruka

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December 05, 2012 – The World Cup passed through its second stop of the season at Ruka, which is just outside of Kuusamo in Finland, this past weekend and this is what I think I know after the three races that took place there:

– Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug are the best skiers in the world right now. Bjoergen dominated winning all three races and is undefeated on the season in the World Cup. This comes on the heels of some talk in the Norwegian press that she was losing a step after having been beaten in some early season races. Northug did not win any of the races on the weekend – he was 2nd in the sprints to Russian Nikolai Kriukov and 2nd again to another Russian, Alexandr Legkov in the 10 km but he won the overall sprint at the end of the third race from another Russian, Maxim Vylegzhanin. He is now leading the World Cup overall.

– The Russian team is ramping it up in preparation for the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. In addition to the above mentioned men’s results they had 5 men finish in the top 10 overall at the end of the three days and that did not include their sprinters like Kriukov. The Russian women’s team is also getting better and better with Julia Tchekaleva 3rd in the 5km and Evgenia Shapovalova 2nd and Anastasia Dotsenko 3rd in the sprints.

– Justina Kowaczyk (POL) is still the 2nd best female skier in the world. She is starting to round into form after a very hard summer and fall of training and she finished 2nd to Bjoergen overall at the end of the weekend. She will be a force in the Tour de Ski after Xmas for sure.

– Kikkan Randall is the real deal in distance racing with a second podium finish in the 5km. It is interesting that she is doing better in distance than in sprints so far this season. She will challenge Bjoergen, Kowalczyk and Terese Johaug of Norway for the overall World Cup this year.

– The rest of the American women are also the real deal. Ida Sargeant had a career best 9th in the sprints and joins Kikkan, Holly Brooks, Liz Stephen and Jessie Diggins to make up one of the strongest women’s teams in the world right now. They should do very well in the Canadian World Cups over the next two weeks.

– Perianne Jones (12th)and Dasha Gaiasova (14th) had great sprint races but continue to struggle in distance races. Chandra Crawford is struggling everywhere and needs to get it together quickly if she is going to race well at home in Canada.

– Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey are starting to come out of their funk. Both had decent results over the weekend but it is nothing like how they finished the year last year. The pressure is on to perform in Canada, especially for Harvey in his hometown this weekend in Quebec City. I wonder what they will do?

– Noah Hoffman is starting to shine. As a junior he had a great engine but poor technique but it seems that he is starting to put it all together. Last year he was a medalist at the World U23 games and his 19th place in the 10km and 26th place overall shows big improvement over last year. The other men on the US team are still back in the pack and need to pick it up soon.

– Many of the top skiers will not be coming to Canada for the World Cups. Marit Bjoergen and Petter Northug stated after the races in Ruka that they would not attend. The Finnish team will only send 5 sprinters to Quebec City, but will send more to the distance races in Canmore including Aino-Kaisa Saarinen. This means that there will be more World Cup points available for North American skiers, as the fields will be diluted.

– Having World Cups in Canada is also a great opportunity for younger, less experienced North American skiers to show what they can do against the best. Careers can be jump started by having a great race over the next two weeks. These are the skiers that I will be watching closely. Now is the time for them to get on the “escalator” that will take them to Sochi in 2014. By skiing well now they will get more opportunities to ski at this level later on in the year which will give them more chances to qualify for their National Teams and for their Olympic Teams. It will be very hard for skiers who are not on the escalator now to make it to Sochi next year.

– All of the Canadian races will be shown on either CBC or Bold over the next three weeks. Consult your local listings for time and dates and set your PVR – there is going to be some great racing!

The American Revolution…

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December 05, 2012 – The first three weeks of the 2012-2013 World Cup season are in the bag – and they (FIS, the rest of the World) are calling our start the “American Revolution.”  And no, they are not referring to the historical event where the Colonies joined together to break free from the British Empire. Instead, they are talking about the American women’s ability to turn heads and turning heads we are…..
So far this season we have three “medals” including the first 4×5 relay performance, the first (and second) US women’s distance skiing podium and many “best ever” moments. While the lack of daylight in Lapland may have been tough for some of my teammates that can come sunnier locales it sure didn’t stop us from skiing fast!  I am currently on cloud nine sitting 14th in the overall World Cup standings. In the first race alone I accomplished one of my most ambitious goals that I thought would take an entire season to tackle.
For me, this season represents an entirely different world. I have one full season of World Cup racing under my belt. I’m familiar with the scene, the travel, I know other people on the circuit, I’m racing World Cup venues having “been there before.” The heightened level of confidence is palpable on our team. When we walk into the dining room we do so with our head’s held high…. we look people square in the eyes, media from other countries are requesting our time; they want to know what our secret is.  Funnily enough, there is no secret – just hard work and dedication.
I for one think that success is contagious. Once you get a small taste of it, it’s much easier to believe in yourself, your abilities and your performance. When you see one of your teammates doing well you think, “Hey, I can keep up with them in double pole roller ski intervals” or I can do “just as many pull ups as them”, therefore, if they can pull a top ten result in the World Cup, maybe I can too?!?!  This is where American skiing stands right now – this is the essence of the Revolution. As a ski nation, we are starting to believe in our talents and our abilities.  The rest of the world is noticing that we’re on a roll.  As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the way to slow us down! Go Team USA!!!!
Thank you SO SO SO much to everyone who has contributed to NNF and made these racing and training experiences possible for us. Without funding help I most surely would have stayed and raced domestically this fall. Thank you for your part in the AMERICAN REVOLUTION!

Inside the Fence – Interviews w/Norway’s Pettersen, Brandsdal, Golberg in Kuusamo

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November 29, 2012 (Kuusamo, Finland) – Check out the second episode of the new FIS series, Inside the Fence, hosted by Jeff Ellis. This edition features pre-race interviews with Norwegian sprinters Oystein Pettersen, Erik Brandsdal, and Paal Golberg. Find out what they have to say leading up to their big race in Kuusamo.

Diggins Report – The Most Exciting Race Ever!

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November 28, 2012 – Wow, that sure was an awesome way to start off the World Cup season!!! Not that I expect every weekend to be as wildly exciting with multiple historical US podium results, but geez that was cool. Our Women’s 4x5km relay placed 3rd, which was the first time ever in US History that we’ve had a podium relay finish! Here are two YouTube videos of the race:


I first want to say a big THANK YOU! to everyone for all the kind words, emails, tweets and more that have come flooding in, and a thanks to all those who have been supporting us US Women every step of the way. It sucks that the podium isn’t big enough to put everyone involved onto it, because there’s a whole lot more than four racers that made the day happen. The ENTIRE team includes the teammates cheering, coaches, wax techs, and friends and family and fans back home. So thanks to everyone!

Here’s the race story from the day!

I was super nervous beforehand because with the results from the previous day, it was clear that the team was in shape and ready to rock, and there are only 3 relays this year, so this was our only shot for a while at making our goal of having a team on the podium.

Then, as I was warming up, I saw the racers go by and turned to Matt, a full-blown panic attack seconds away. I’d just seen Liz in second and was like “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!” I was hyperventilating. Even though I was trying to convince myself that this was going to be just another 5km skate race, I couldn’t ignore the fact that our team was higher up than we’d ever been and the extremely hard work of my teammates was about to be put into my hands.

In the tag zone, I looked over at Marit and said “No big deal… no pressure… aaaaaagh!” and she gave me a little smile that basically said “Good luck, sweetheart”.

So when Liz tagged me, I might have gone out a little hot. And by might have, I mean that I definitely did. I had so much adrenaline pumping that I didn’t feel anything till the top of the first hill, and then it hit me. I just kept trying to stay within sight of Marit, and I was so focused on keeping every second I could that I wasn’t even aware of team Sweden, Finland and Norway 2 coming in hot behind me.

When Kalla (Sweden) passed me, I tried to hang on but was going full throttle and didn’t want to hit the wall completely halfway through the race, so I had to let her go, which was tough. But when Kristoffersen (Norway 2) passed me, I did hang on, just barely, because I knew I usually have good kick at the end of a race and there was maybe a chance.

Liz and Ida and the rest of the team were screaming from the side of the course, but two things stood out to me. Ida was sprinting alongside me yelling like I’d never heard her yell before, and Liz frantically screamed “C’mon Jess, you have to believe you CAN DO THIS! BELIEVE IT!!!”

So when we got within .5km of the finish, I had this flashback to the last relay I raced, in Nove Mesto, where I waited too long to start sprinting and Kalla beat me to the line. I didn’t want to make the same mistake, and decided to make a move before the s-turn to the stadium, sliding ahead of Kristoffersen right before the first corner.

We rounded the stadium corner and started sprinting down the home stretch, and I saw Kristoffersen’s skis come into view, but the only thing I could think was No. Not. Happening. I can’t screw this up now! I think in those final hundred meters I dug deeper than I have in a long, long time.

I crossed the line only .5 seconds ahead, and made this half-yelling-half-screaming-mostely-I’m-in-so-much-pain-right-now noise, and collapsed. The next 2 minutes I was in a haze but I felt my teammates piled on top of me, and then it sunk in and we all realized what had just happened.

There were cameras going off everywhere, but we were huddled in this little circle, crying and laughing and going through this wild flood of emotions (and probably endorphins too, I’ll admit)!

The feeling we all got, standing on the podium having reached a major goal that we all set down on paper earlier this year, was incredible. For me at least, it makes me want to train hard and work even harder to keep these kinds of feelings coming – there’s two more steps on that podium to climb, after all!

I thought it was so cool that all these athletes from other teams were coming up to us and congratulating us on the day – they were psyched for us! Every one of them remembers what it felt like their first time on the podium so they knew what we were going through when we were all huddled together crying :)

That night I had such a hard time getting to sleep (gee, I wonder why?) I just kept replaying that final sprint in my mind and hearing Liz and Ida scream “BELIEVE!”. I think I’m going to be hearing that for a while.

Alberta World Cup Academy Men’s Time Trial Results from 17km Skiathlon

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November 28, 2012 (Canmore, AB) – The men from the Alberta World Cup Academy along with the Thunder Bay NDC and a couple other teams raced a 17km Skiathlon on the weekend in preparation for the first set of NorAm competitions coming up. Plenty of snow allowed for the group to race on the same trails being used for the World Cups, coming to Canmore December 13 – 16.

Graham Nishikawa finished first, after McMurtry, Killick, and himself broke away from the pack early on in the classic leg. Nishikawa grabbed a small lead after the transition, and maintained it over Killick who finished second. Brian McKeever who skis with the Para-Nordic National Team was able to catch back up to McMurtry and outsprint him to the finish.

1. Graham Nishikawa (AWCA) 43:21:00
2. Graeme Killick (AWCA)43:44:00
3. Brian McKeever (PNST) 44:01:00
4. Brent McMurtry (AWCA) 44:02:00
5. Pate Neumann (CNSC) 44:13:00
6. Chris Hamilton (AWCA) 44:13:00
7. Partrick Stewart-Jones (AWCA) 44:26:00
8. Jess Cockney (AWCA) 44:40:00
9. Russell Kennedy (AWCA) 44:55:00
10. Gerard Garnier (CNSC) 44:57:00
11. Michael Somppi (AWCA) 45:09:00
12. Erik Carleton (PNST) 45:19:00
13. Phil Widmer (AWCA) 45:37:00
14. Andy Shields (NDC TB) 45:41:00
15. Matt Wylie (AWCA) 46:58:00
16. Jordan Cascagnette (NDC TB) 46:58:00
17. Dudley Coulter (NDC TB) 47:20:00
18. Bob Thompson (NDC TB) 47:27:00
19. Scott Hill (NDC TB) 50:15:00

This weekend’s NorAms in Canmore are also selection races for the Quebec and Canmore World Cups. So far Kevin Sandau, Alysson Marshall, who are currently in Europe racing the first set of World Cups, along with Emily Nishikawa and Brent McMurtry, are already pre-selected for these races.

NNF Thanks the Nordic Community for Drive for 25 Success

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November 28, 2012 – The National Nordic Foundation raised $218,000 from 1,300 donors to support our developing Cross-Country and Nordic Combined athletes. Seeing what our American Nordic community can do when we work together is truly amazing, humbling, and inspiring. We are so fortunate to have you as a part of it. In the coming weeks we will be announcing our funding for the 2012/2013 season. Stay tuned…. But you prepaid for this!

“The current US Team World Cup success is a product of the team work and cooperation between US Ski Team, Clubs, and NNF. Together we are strongest as a team.” – Erik Flora

Thank you all.

Top 10 D25 States by Dollar
– Idaho $42,552
– Colorado $26,320
– Minnesota $15,690
– Utah $10,990
– Alaska $8,134
– Vermont $6,655
– Wisconsin $6,060
– Washington $5,520
– New York $4,440
– Pennsylvania $4,325

Top 10 D25 States by number of donors
– Colorado 244
– Utah 127
– Minnesota 125
– Vermont 113
– Alaska 105
– Wisconsin 77
– New York 57
– Washington 53
– Idaho 52
– Massachusetts 52

Diggins Report – The Good, the Bad, and the Jet-lagged

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November 21, 2012 (Muonio, Finland) – Well, we made it to Muonio, Finland! And the trails here are awesome, with tons of snow and even more daylight than I thought there’d be (you can see the sun on a clear day from 11:30 – 3:00). There’s a ton of international skiers here: Finland, Russia, Japan, Spain, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, and probably a few more that I’m forgetting at the moment!

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I have a somewhat embarrassing story to report: on our flight from Washington to Munich we had a super tight connection where we ran off the plane to the next gate…and in the stress and rush, I left my laptop on the plane. Yeah, seriously. I did that.

The good news is that they found it and are holding it at the desk, but it’s been a logistical nightmare to get it back since they won’t ship it. I should hopefully have it back sometime in Gallivare, Sweden, and then I promise to update a ton of pictures! Meanwhile the girls have been so nice in letting me borrow their computers to check email everyday.

Some cool things about the trip so far: the airport where we flew in, Rovaniemi, is the official hometown (and airport) of Santa Claus. Don’t believe me? Google that thing! It’s real! Of course, I’m not sure how Cork feels about that being from North Pole, AK…

We also went to visit the local elementary school here in Munio and the kids there could speak amazing English, and some had questions about the US (are there really Polar Bears in Alaska? What’s our favorite hockey team?). They were really nice and it was cool to see a school from another country.

This week has been a pretty hard training week for me with a couple interval sets, a couple strength sessions, and 3 FIS races. So far, I’m one race in and my limbs feel a little like jelly, but I guess that’s to be expected when I’m still shaking out a whole lot of cobwebs and jetlag.

Today was the classic sprint. For me, classic skiing in general and especially sprinting is something I’ve been trying to convince myself is fun. But today felt like a total slap in the face since I fell on the steep herringbone pitch 15 feet from the finish line in the qualifier. I somehow squeaked my way into the rounds in bib #30 and then fell again…in the SAME SPOT. Geez. Wow. Ouch.

But sometimes you learn the most from the races you do the worst in. Even if what you’re learning is how to be mentally kind to yourself! And to not take racing too seriously, and remember that you’re a person, not a machine.

Saturday we have a 5km classic and Sunday is a 10km skate, and then on Monday we drive over to Gallivare, Sweden.

There’s a pretty funny story I’ve heard from 2 years ago when the team vans ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, in between Munio and Gallivare. They had to stop at a reindeer farm and wait for the farmer to unload 150 reindeer before he could get them gas. Hopefully this year we make it!

Brooks Blog – Greetings from Gallivare

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November 21, 2012 (Gallivare, Sweden) – The US Team drove 3 hours from Muonio to Gallivare yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed a long sunset… and then it was dark at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. This made for a short day – even for someone like me from Alaska! It’s cool to be here for a couple of reasons. Peter, our head wax tech is from Gallivare. It’s cool to see his home town and hopefully he’ll share some local/beta/knowledge with us. Maybe we’ll even get lucky by doing some laundry! (Yes, it’s the little things….)

Second, the ski stadium here is called “Hellner Stadium” after Swedish ski star, Marcus Hellner. Marcus grew up skiing around here and apparently he won his first World Cup here, in his own home town. Upon arrival last night I went for a short jog and the ski stadium was bustling with energy; mostly old Swedish men setting up for this weekend’s upcoming race. You could tell they were loving every minute of it! No pictures yet but I will get some soon!

If you are curious about Gallivare, the FIS Cross Country site always has a bit of info about the World Cup venues…. Check it out HERE.

“Gällivare, located 100km north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, is a small mining town where the Sámi culture and modern industry coexists.”

November on XC Ski Girl
November is up and ready on XC Ski Girl for those who are interested! Read it HERE.

Reese Hanneman Photo Shoot

Last but certainly not least, pictures from the photo shoot I did with Reese Hanneman at Lake Hood are up on his website HERE. I’m sure that many of you have already seen them on Facebook and/or Fasterskier but the complete collection, in high res (!) is up on his engine room media site. Be sure to check back on Reese’s site often because he always has something cool up his sleeve!

Good luck to Reese and the rest of my APU teammates who will be hitting up the races in West Yellowstone this weekend! I’ll be cheering for you guys from Swedish Lapland!

Kikkan Randall’s Q&A – Kikkan Explains Her Foot Injury

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November 21, 2012 – SkiTrax contributor and columnist, Marty Hall, has been following USST member Kikkan Randall’s foot injury that has been plaguing her since last season and wondered how her injury happened. Randall sat out the team’s Euro season opener FIS races in Muonio, Finland this past weekend, but she hopes to be on the start line in Gallivare, Sweden for the start of the WCup this coming weekend. This is what Randall had to say about her foot…

Kikkan Explains Her Foot Injury

Kikkan, do you know how the break in your foot occurred? Was it over-use or from a fall, or from jumping or landing on a rock or some form of trauma like that? Did you have any signs or did it just sneak up on you?

Marty Hall
Dunham, NH

Hi Marty,

The stress fracture in my second metatarsal seemed to be more of an over-use injury, there was no singular moment where it happened. I started to feel the pain slightly about a year ago and felt it intermittently during the season. My foot was quite painful at the Tour de Ski from all the consecutive days of hard racing, but then would chill a little bit in between race weekends.

The pain started up again this spring with all the crust skiing up in Alaska and during our opening camp in Bend, OR. I kept trying to manage through the summer, but by the end of our Alaska camp, it was clear I needed to get my foot checked out. I got the first MRI in mid-July and was diagnosed with a stress reaction.


All of us at SkiTrax wish Kikkan a speedy recovery and the best of luck this season.

Talkin’ with the Gravy Train – Interview w/Jessie Diggins Part 1

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November 16, 2012 – This week on Talkin’ with the Gravy Train, we bring you Part 1 of an interview with young U.S. cross country skiing superstar Jessie Diggins. Talkin’ with the Gravy Train is a series of audio interviews hosted by famous sports commentator and journalist Peter Graves, that provides a forum for notable Nordic personalities to talk about the sport they love in their own words and express their point of view.

Jessie DigginsMaking Her Mark
The US Ski Team’s Jessie Diggins, a 21-year-old Minnesota native, has enjoyed a strong off-season of training and is anxious to start racing again.

Diggins enjoyed a breakthrough season last year with fine results like her second place finish in a team sprint in Milano with Kikkan Randall, at just her third World Cup start. She also scored her first World Cup points last season taking a 6th place in a sprint in downtown Moscow. With results like that the sky’s the limit and in this candid interview she talks about her goals for the season and contemplates that this could be a more challenging campaign.

Diggins goes into the year with five US National titles in her career, and will be targeting the FIS top-seeded Red Group for both sprinting and distance skiing

We caught up with her last week, as she was training and packing for the start of the international season. She’s currently in Finland with the rest of the USST team, and in this edition of TWTGT she shares her passion and joy of cross-country skiing and a look at what’s ahead.