Sas­seville Re­port

An Amaz­ing Sea­son by North Amer­i­can Skiers

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Jack Sas­seville

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.

Len Val­jas brings home his­toric bronze in the men's re­lay at Ul­rice­hamn, Swe­den.

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