Out In Front

SkiTrax - - Contents - By John Sy­mon

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.

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