An Amazing Season by North American Skiers
What are your best memories of the 2016-17 season? I have a number of great ones that I would like to share:
1. Alex Harvey winning the 50km in Lahti, Finland at the World Championships. This was absolutely the highlight of the season for me. The 50km is the hardest race on the World Cup circuit, and to win the World Championship is the pinnacle of the sport. He will always be a world champion. 2. Jessie Diggins at the World Championships and on the World Cup. Diggins continues to improve every year, and her two medals at the World Championships – silver in the sprint, with Kikkan Randall in bronze, and a bronze with Sadie Bjornsen in the Team sprint, to go along with a World Cup win earlier in the season – have made her the best non-norwegian female skier in the world. She is a favourite in every race on the World Cup now.
3. The dominance of Marit Bjoergen. There is no one in the world right now who can ski as fast as she can (except Therese Johaug, who is serving a doping suspension). Bjoergen not only won almost every race she went into, but she also won them handily. In many races, she was 10-15 seconds ahead at the first timing point and cruised to wins by more than a minute. Sure, she was challenged a few times, but overall, she was way ahead of the world. This at 36 years of age and after having a baby and being hurt most of the summer.
4. The win by Len Valjas and Alex Harvey in a World Cup Team sprint. This memory hits very close to home, as I was Valjas's coach when he was in high school. It was amazing to see him outsprint everyone for this gold medal, and it's a great comeback for him after some tough seasons due to injury or illness.
5. The Canadian men's relay team making history with a World Cup medal in a Team relay. Everyone skied an amazing race, and that is what you need to do in a relay.
6. The disappearance of Petter Northug from the results board. Of course, he did not disappear from social media or TV in Norway (he is the Justin Bieber of Norway), but due to overtraining in the fall, he was never able to ski well all winter. The big question for all the “Petterfiles” out there is whether or not he can come back next winter for the Olympics in Pyeongchang, or will he be like Tiger Woods and fade out of the picture.
7. The number of young skiers at the Eastern Canadian Championships, the Canadian National Championships and the U.S. National Championships. There were record numbers at all of these events, which bodes well, I think, for the future of skiing in North America. These numbers rival the number of skiers that I saw at the Norwegian Championships in March.
8. The amazing World Cup held in Quebec City on short notice. Gestev is an amazing company, and with Cross Country Canada, it did a great job of showcasing our sport in Canada. Of course, it doesn't hurt when the hometown hero, Harvey, delivers podium performances!
9. Johannes Klaebo sprinting uphill in Classic. Wow! I have never seen anyone with so much speed on skis – and with such a wild technique. And like anything wild, there is already a lot of imitation. At the Canadian Championships in Canmore, Alta. in March, there was a lot of highstep running in the sprint races. Look for even more of this next year as everyone starts to practise it.
10. And finally, after much controversy last winter and this fall about double-poling in Classic races, this year was very quiet. The polelength rules were a non-issue for the most part, courses were changed and made harder, diagonal zones were implemented and diagonal stride seems to have been saved again. With the emergence of skin skis, diagonal stride is easier and fun to do again and more racers are training using this traditional technique.
I hope that you had a great winter with good snow and lots of skiing. I'm already looking forward to many more great memories in 2017-18. With the Olympics in Korea, it should be a memorable year.