Olympic Veterans Lead 26 Canucks into First Ever Ski Tour Canada
Ski de fond Canada —Les Canadiens accueilleront les meilleurs au monde lors de l’événement nordique qui comprend huit épreuves disputées à Gatineau, Montréal, Québec et Canmore—
—Canadians to host world’s best for epic Nordic tour that includes eight races in Gatineau, Montreal, Quebec City and Canmore, Alta.—
CANMORE, Alta.—Seven Olympians will lead a team of 26 Canadians who will host the top Nordic athletes in the world for the biggest cross-country ski event ever in North America – the 2016 Ski Tour Canada, March 1-12.
Canada will field a team of 14 men and 12 women for the World Cup finale that will consist of eight races at four renowned venues starting in Gatineau, Que., then traveling to Montreal, Quebec City, and ending with four stages in Canmore, Alta., over a 12-day period.
“We have a great line-up of athletes that obviously includes a group of veterans with lots of internationalexperience combined with our development level athletes who will benefit tremendously from competing in this unique format,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian National Ski Team. “For me this Tour is all about logistics. We need to make sure we tick off all the boxes when it comes to the best preparation and recovery because that will be critical to success.”
Wadsworth put a number of his veterans through the finishing touches to their preparation during a high-altitude camp at Mt. Shark near Canmore, Alta. on Monday. The group of Olympians includes: Alex Harvey (St-Ferreol les Neiges, Que.); Devon Kershaw (Sudbury, Ont.); Ivan Babikov (Canmore, Alta.); Graeme Killick (Fort McMurray, Alta.); Emily Nishikawa (Whitehorse); Len Valjas (Toronto); and Jesse Cockney (Canmore, Alta.).
“The fact the big crystal globes (for the overall World Cup leaders) will be awarded with Rundle Mountain in Canmore as a backdrop is just a huge opportunity,” said three-time Olympian, Devon Kershaw. “There is no Olympics or World Championships this year for us so the training has been focused completely on this Tour.”
The Tour kicks off with a skate-sprint race in Gatineau, Que., March 1, before Montreal’s Parc du Mont-Royal hosts a classic mass start event on March 2. Following a day off, the action heats up when Alex Harvey’s hometown of Quebec City hosts a skate-ski sprint (March 4) and pursuit race (March 5) that starts and finishes on the Plaines of Abraham.
“The downtown venue will bring good crowds and a great atmosphere,” said Harvey, who added more than 10,000 turned out in Quebec City for a World Cup in 2012. “The energy was awesome. Anytime you are racing and it’s loud you can forget about the pain. The goal ultimately is to always be on the podium. I’ve never done that in Canada, but I know I can be there. We will all take the energy from the crowd and hopefully win. That will be the ultimate way to showcase our sport and inspire the kids watching.”
“Quebec is going to be absolute pandemonium,” added Kershaw. “The passion for cross-country skiing in Canada lives in Quebec. They are so passionate, so enthusiastic and love the sport so it will be a show like none other.”
Emily Nishikawa, who has been the lone Canadian woman competing regularly on the World Cup this year, will lead a developing group of women from across the country for the Tour which ends with the final four stages set for the Canmore Nordic Centre March 8-12.
“This is going to be my first Tour, but our guys are some of the best in the world and very experienced so it will be great to be able to lean on them on how to prepare for an event like this,” said Nishikawa. “This Tour is so important not only for all of us skiing, but for the next generation of young skiers to see World Cups at home. I remember watching World Cups in Canmore and Sovereign Lake in 2005, and that was so inspiring for me, so events like this are critical to motivate that next generation.”
The following is a complete list of athletes that will represent Canada for the inaugural 2016 Ski Tour Canada following an extensive selection process.
Men’s Team Women’s Team
Alex Harvey – St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que. Dahria Beatty – Whitehorse
Len Valjas – Toronto Cendrine Browne – St-Jérôme, Que.
Devon Kershaw – Sudbury, Ont. Maya Macisaac-Jones – Athabasca, Alta.
Ivan Babikov – Canmore, Alta. Emily Nishikawa – Whitehorse
Graeme Killick – Fort McMurray, Alta. Andrea Dupont – Timmins, Ont.
Kevin Sandau – Calgary Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt – Morin-Heights, Que.
Andy Shields – Waterloo, Ont. Jenn Jackson – Thunder Bay, Ont.
Bob Thompson – Thunder Bay, Ont. Sophie Carrier-Laforte – Gatineau, Que.
Michael Somppi – Thunder Bay, Ont. Alannah Maclean – Sudbury, Ont.
Knute Johnsgaard – Whitehorse Katherine Stewart-Jones – Chelsea, Que.
Russell Kennedy – Canmore, Alta. Annika Hicks – Canmore, Alta.
Simon Lapointe – Gatineau, Que. Marie Corriveau – St-Ferreol les Neiges, Que.
Jesse Cockney – Canmore, Alta.
Patrick Stewart-Jones – Chelsea, Que.
For complete information on the Ski Tour Canada, please visit www.skitourcanada.com.
Additional Athlete Quotes:
“It is so exciting for us to start such a deep team. This is obviously amazing for all of us, but it is such a great development event for our domestic athletes to get this experience. I know they will take a lot from this and bring it back to them when racing NorAms next year. It is a special year and opportunity.”
“I’ve competed everywhere and Canmore is my favourite course in the world. It is super challenging with lots of up and downs and the altitude makes a big affect on your body. I’m not a speedy guy, but I have a big engine and that course in Canmore suits me well.”
“This time of year the energy level goes down for many athletes so for us to come home will hopefully be less difficult and we can take advantage of the crowds behind us. This is going to be special. To see myself on the podium in one of these races would be the highlight of my season for sure – maybe even my career.”
“If our international federation truly wants to grow our sport, and call this a true World Cup circuit, then we have to expand more into North American and Asia. From a grassroots level, there is no better way to inspire youth than to have your best in the country race in front of them at home. It becomes so much more tangible and attainable when kids see their heroes in person and realize they are just normal people.”
“Preparation and recovery are critical. Right now training at altitude, for us, we believe this is how we can prepare the best to have an advantage over our competitors. On a Tour there are lots of little things you have to take care of. Those little things don’t have a huge impact on their own, but we need to hit all of our recovery tips or they will have an impact on us.”
CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, and Mackenzie Investments – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.
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