Out In Front
Ivan Babikov, 36, has retired as a cross-country skier, but starts a new career as coach with the National Ski Team, Cross Country Ski Canada (CCC). He will now work alongside Louis Bouchard.
“Ivan was a tireless athlete who was known for his relentless pursuit of excellence throughout his 10 years on the National Ski Team. I expect the same drive and determination from him in his coaching career,” said Tom Holland, CCC'S high-performance director. “He brings tremendous experience and insight on what it takes to succeed on the World Cup.”
Bouchard, who has been a World Cup team coach for six years, will take the lead coaching role for the World Cup squad leading to Pyeongchang 2018. Bouchard will also continue his role as head coach of Alex Harvey and the Pierre Harvey Training Centre in Quebec. Babikov will work specifically with Devon Kershaw and the men's World-cuplevel athletes based at the Canmore Nordic Centre (CNS), west of Calgary, Alta., while also serving as B-team coach. He will also provide coaching support to the athletes in the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) at the CNS.
“I'm extremely excited. Coaching is something I have always targeted as a goal of mine when I was ready to stop competing,” said Babikov, who completed a university coaching diploma in his hometown of Syktyvkar, Russia before immigrating to Canada.
Bouchard and Babikov will oversee four coaches across Canada, including Charles Castonguay in Quebec, who will concentrate on the World Cup circuit. A trio of coaches will focus on the developing women's program, including Chris Jeffries (high-performance program director at the AWCA), Kathy Davies (technical coach) and Lisa Patterson (team coordinator).
“If we truly want to put Canada's cross-country-ski athletes on the Olympic podium in 2018, 2022 and beyond, then it is critical to put the Canadian system in the hands of coaches who are living and embedded in our training centres across the country,” says Holland, who has been full-time with the team since 2006. Each of the coaches on both the National Ski Teams will continue to report to Holland.
Babikov's career features a fourth place at the 2013 World Championships and a fifth place in the Pursuit race at the 2010 Games in Vancouver-whistler. He had one stage victory at the 2009 Tour de Ski, along with two other World Cup podiums, three fourth-place finishes, a handful of top-10's on the World Cup and three top-15 finishes at the prestigious 2016 Ski Tour of Canada.
“Coaching has always been in my blood. Throughout my career, I have always enjoyed spending time helping younger athletes. Realizing the end was near over the last year, I started providing more advice than normal to my teammates as well, which I think helped the guys with their preparation, so I'm excited for this next challenge,” says Babikov.
Babikov immigrated to Canada in 2003; he began racing domestically that fall. Babikov dominated the domestic-race circuit while wearing a Canadian National Ski Team uniform, but represented Russia at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. He competed for Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Games after receiving his Canadian citizenship in 2007.
Jessie Diggins Partners with Swix
Afton, Minn.'s Jessie Diggins, a 2016 World Cup champion, is now sponsored by Swix Sport USA Inc. A steadfast competitor, Diggins has rocketed up the ranks of the International World Cup results pages since her debut at the 2011 World Championships at the Holmenkollen in Norway.
“This is an exciting time to be a cross-country fan in America. With Jessie headlining our stable alongside Sadie Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwell, Swix has the most talented roster America has ever produced,” said Steve Poulin, CEO of Swix Sport USA.
The 2015-16 World Cup season saw Diggins take a Tour de Ski stage victory and a win at the Toblach 5km skate plus podium finishes in the 10km skate in Nove Mesto (third), Lahti skate sprint (second), Gatineau skate sprint (third) and 10km Pursuit Classic (third) during the Ski Tour Canada.
“Winning my first World Cup was a huge moment for me because it broke the glass ceiling that U.S. women's distance skiing had been under,” said Diggins. “Previously, I had thought it was nearly impossible to keep up with the Scandinavian [athletes] in distance races. . . .”
Kikkan Randall and Jeff Ellis Welcome New Baby Boy
Kikkan Randall and Jeff Ellis are the proud parents of a baby boy, Breck Stuart Randall Ellis, born on April 14. Randall tweeted, “Overwhelmed with love and happiness to welcome Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into our family last night.
“Breck arrived on April 14 at 7:47 p.m. Alaska time at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage,” said Jeff Ellis, the new father. “He entered the world at 8 lbs., 11 oz. (3,946g) and 21” (53cm) long. He's named after the six-day stage race called the Breck Epic, which takes place in Breckenridge, Colo. I raced it in 2013. Kikkan picked the name.
“Mom is doing very well. Eager to get back to training, but isn't in
a rush. She's enjoying the learning curve of being a new mom, and that's her top priority. I was in the room during the birth. We had an awesome crew of medical staff in there. It was just Kik and I present, besides them.”
Randall, 33, expects to spend a few weeks laying low before restarting her training with short walks, the goal being to begin ski training in early June. Until then, it's about healing up, returning to the new normal and being mom.
Snowsports Industries Returns to January Show Dates
In late May, Snowsports Industries America (SIA) announced that it was returning to late-january dates for its SIA Snow Show and On-snow Demos for the 2016-17 winter season. In late 2015, SIA announced it had rescheduled the shows nearly two months earlier starting in 2017, “moving them to December, to better align with the industry's buying season.” This would have put the Snow Show in early December 2016.
After engaging in comprehensive meetings with stakeholders and listening to members of the SIA community, Nick Sargent, the new SIA president, and the board of directors came to a unanimous decision that it is in the best interest of the industry to maintain the late-january show dates henceforward.
The revised Snow Show schedule now begins Jan. 26, 2017 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colo., to finish Jan. 30 at Copper Mountain, Colo.
Elan Terminates Ski-jumping Program
In May, the Elan Group based in Slovenia announced it was ending its sponsorship program for ski-jumping skis with the hope that another company will acquire it. Elan's board of directors has adopted “new strategic objectives” and its ski-jumping sponsorship program, which accounted for a significant share of the company's marketing resources, was focused on marketing, not on sales.
Elan sponsors local Slovenian jumper Peter Prevc, winner of the 2016 World Cup. The company began making skis for Yugoslav Resistance fighters in World War II, and now makes a wide variety of sporting equipment.
NNF Names Kashiwa as Executive Director
Hennie Kashiwa became executive director of the National Nordic Foundation (NNF) on May 1, and will work in tandem with outgoing director James Southam to ensure a smooth transition. Kashiwa comes to the NNF after a stint in retail management at Boulder Nordic Sport and coaching at the University of Denver.
“I don't see any significant changes on the horizon, but rather opportunities for growth,” says Kashiwa, indicating no dramatic changes are in store. “I know that James Southam has put a huge amount of work and passion into the NNF, and I hope that I can help to carry on his good work. I see my role coming into the NNF as supporting those who have dedicated themselves to junior and U23 skiing.”
Justin Wadsworth Resigns from CCC
Justin Wadsworth, one of the most accomplished head coaches in the history of the Canadian National Ski Team, announced his retirement on the heels of the inaugural eight-race Ski Tour Canada, where he guided 26 Canadian athletes to numerous personal-best performances, including Alex Harvey's fifth-place finish in the overall standings.
Wadsworth is married to Beckie Scott, a former Olympic gold-medalist skier. They have two young children. “Beckie and I have dedicated nearly our entire lives almost exclusively to the sport of cross-country skiing – both as athletes and in coaching – but I feel now it is time to take a break and concentrate my time on being a father and husband,” said Wadsworth. “Cross-country skiing is in our family's blood, but at some point, it is time to step away.”
An Olympic cross-country skier himself, Wadsworth has been part of the high-performance system in both Canada and the U.S. for more than 25 years. He notably coached Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey to a historic gold medal in the Team Sprint at the 2011 World Championships.
“I was very fortunate to join a program that had a talented pool of athletes, a fantastic wax team, an established sport-science program and experienced staff in place. No program is successful without all of these core pieces in place, and I can't thank the entire team enough for their support,” said Wadsworth.
Ivan Babikov pictured at Ski Tour Canada has traded in his race skis for coaching skis with Team Canada.