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Cana­dian Team 2018 Pre­view Go­ing for Gold at Pyeongchang 2018

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With a huge Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic sea­son ahead and hopes to bring home some hard­ware, Team Canada has been pre­par­ing, as are all na­tions, for the sea­son ahead. With the big event on the hori­zon, the fo­cus is on solid train­ing and stay­ing healthy, so we checked in with the Na­tional team to find out how their dry­land train­ing un­folded dur­ing the sum­mer lead­ing into an Olympic year. Ivan Babikov, the Na­tional team coach, has been keep­ing to what works, stat­ing, “There are some changes to be made from last sea­son, but it’s noth­ing we haven’t done be­fore . . . it’s more a case of fine-tun­ing.” Louis Bouchard, who coaches Alex Har­vey, says Canada’s top skier is on track. “Alex had a re­ally good sum­mer, and is still pro­gress­ing well and is ready for this Olympic year.”

Cross Coun­try Canada is fol­low­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to coach­ing the ath­letes, and Thomas Hol­land, its high-per­for­mance di­rec­tor, echoes the team’s coaches: “In an Olympic year, there are no ma­jor changes.” Hol­land states the goal is for one to two podi­ums at the Games. “The ath­letes pre­par­ing for the Games are fo­cused, healthy and mo­ti­vated to suc­ceed,” he con­tin­ued. “So far dur­ing the off-sea­son, the gen­eral train­ing and health of the ath­letes is on track, with a larger group of ath­letes be­ing sup­ported than was the case last year. The coach­ing and sport-science/sport-medicine sup­port staff are be­ing very ef­fec­tive in their plan­ning and pro­gram ex­e­cu­tion.”

With a great sea­son be­hind them, the men’s World Cup team of Har­vey, Len Val­jas, Devon Ker­shaw, Jesse Cock­ney, Knute Johns­gaard, Graeme Kil­lick, Julien Locke and Gareth Wil­liams can af­ford to carry an op­ti­mistic look into the sea­son ahead. The wo­man’s team is fol­low­ing their lead and grow­ing as skiers while gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on the World Cup cir­cuit, with Dahria Beatty, Cen­drine Browne, Kather­ine Ste­wart-jones, Maya Macisaac-jones and Olivia Bouf­fard-nes­bitt join­ing vet­eran Emily Nishikawa on the se­nior team. The squad scored a top-10 re­sult in the Team re­lay at Lahti2017 for Canada’s sec­ond-best women’s re­lay re­sult.

Ac­cord­ing to Babikov, four train­ing camps were held for the men, who were most re­cently in Italy, a place the team likes to go for high al­ti­tude, good roads and to meet up with other ath­letes train­ing there. He stressed the im­por­tance of the camps and train­ing to­gether for the phys­i­cal and men­tal gains – spend­ing time to­gether means bond­ing. “It’s like a fam­ily; we care for each other. The Olympic Games can be nerve-rack­ing and that sup­port is cru­cial.”

Both Babikov and Hol­land stressed the im­por­tance of stay­ing healthy dur­ing an Olympic year. Re­view­ing what worked and didn’t work last sea­son is also part of the prepa­ra­tion in be­tween train­ing ses­sions. “The hard­est part of sum­mer is over, with big hours and some in­ten­sity,” com­mented Babikov.

The team was just start­ing their fi­nal month of vol­ume, with more in­ten­sity and fo­cus on speed qual­ity. A train­ing camp planned for Revel­stoke, B.C. was can­celled due to the for­est-fire smoke that af­fected Al­berta and B.C. this past sum­mer.

The team will take each World Cup race one at a time, with a fo­cus on the Tour de Ski. There may be some races sac­ri­ficed in the lead-up to Fe­bru­ary to fo­cus on the fi­nal prepa­ra­tion for the Games.

On the topic of coach­ing, Babikov is now in his sec­ond year, and said, “The more I do it, the more I like it.” He en­joys join­ing the team for train­ing work­outs and jokes that he can still keep up.

With the spot­light on Har­vey af­ter a tremen­dous sea­son, Cana­dian fans will be thrilled to hear that he’s had a good sum­mer. Bouchard says Har­vey feels even stronger than last year and doesn’t worry

about the pres­sure. “Alex re­acts well un­der pres­sure. He’s been on the podium since he was a ju­nior racer, and knows what it takes at the big events,” he shared.

He plans to con­test all the events at the Olympics and bring home a his­toric medal at what could be his last Games, but come race time in South Korea, Bouchard says it will also be a day-to-day assess­ment, and plans could change.

Bouchard also feels the cur­rent coach­ing pro­gram in Canada is work­ing re­ally well. He and Babikov are on the ground as World Cup coaches, while Joel Jac­ques co­or­di­nates the team trips. “This is good for the East and West, as Joel can see the over­view much eas­ier be­cause he’s not caught up in the de­tails of coach­ing ath­letes di­rectly,” said Bouchard.

The women’s team had their own train­ing camp to­gether as a group in Au­gust. Nishikawa and Beatty rounded up five more women for a Na­tional women’s team camp to train on the Snow Farm in New Zealand for three weeks with coach Chris Jef­fries. On blue­bird days un­der ex­cep­tional con­di­tions, they were joined by Browne, Ste­wartJones, Marie Cor­riveau, An­nika Hicks and Katie Weaver for vol­ume train­ing and in­ten­sity ses­sions, as well as video work.

Beatty re­ported that, “Getting back on snow al­lowed me to find those lit­tle pieces that seemed to be miss­ing dur­ing the early dry­land train­ing. I felt re­ally good through­out the camp, and I can safely say it has been my most pro­duc­tive train­ing block of the sea­son to date.”

Browne’s com­ments were that she en­joyed train­ing with the group: “I was so happy to be able to train with the girls on the team, as well as our re­cruits. I love to train with them! We do not have the chance to train to­gether ev­ery day, as we usu­ally all live in dif­fer­ent prov­inces of our huge coun­try.”

The Olympics are a pri­mary fo­cus this sea­son. To Hol­land, the ma­jor chal­lenge of the World Cup sched­ule this year is en­sur­ing the ath­letes are ready for the Olympics. This may mean miss­ing some races in or­der to prop­erly pre­pare for the Games.

The World Cup sched­ule will be sim­i­lar to pre­vi­ous years, with Pe­riod One kick­ing off in Ruka, Fin­land on Nov. 24-27. The next stop is Lille­ham­mer, Nor­way on Dec. 2-3, fol­lowed by a stop in Davos, Switzer­land on Dec. 9-10 be­fore stop­ping in Toblach, Italy on Dec. 16-17, prior to the hol­i­day break.

The Tour de Ski runs Dec. 30-Jan. 7 with venues in Switzer­land, Ger­many and Italy, and is fol­lowed by Pe­riod Three of the World Cup, which re-starts again in Dres­den, Ger­many on Jan. 13-14. Then it’s off to Plan­ica, Slove­nia on Jan. 20-21, fol­lowed by Seefeld, Aus­tria from Jan. 27-28, the last stop prior to the Olympic Games, which run from Feb. 9-25.

Pe­riod Five be­gins in Lahti, Fin­land on March 3-4, fol­lowed by the Dram­men Sprints on March 7, with the Oslo World Cup fol­low­ing from March 10-11. Falun, Swe­den will host the fi­nals on March 16-18. Ac­cord­ing to Hol­land, the March World Cup races will be chal­leng­ing to at­tend due to bud­get con­straints.

On the do­mes­tic front, the Hay­wood No­rams be­gin at Sov­er­eign Lake, B.C. on Dec. 9-10 and move on to Ross­land, B.C. from Dec. 15-17. The Cana­dian World Ju­nior/u23 Tri­als will be held in con­juc­tion with the Hay­wood No­ram at Mont-ste-anne, Que. in early Jan­uary, with the Cham­pi­onships be­ing staged later on in the month in Goms, Switzer­land. The Hay­wood No­ram West­ern Cana­di­ans are in Red Deer, Alta. this year from Jan. 20-21. The Easterns will be held at Nakker­tok on Feb. 2-4, with the sea­son fin­ish­ing with the Cana­dian Ski Na­tion­als on March 10-17 at Lappe Nordic.

Ac­cord­ing to Hol­land, the op­por­tu­ni­ties in store for young Cana­dian skiers this sea­son are the 2018 FIS Nordic Ju­nior /U23/ World Cham­pi­onships in Switzer­land on Jan. 28-Feb. 3 and a Euro­pean FIS race tour in mid-europe in Fe­bru­ary.

For the suc­cess­ful ath­letes par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Games, the cross­coun­try-ski events will be the men’s 15km and women’s 10km, the Free tech­nique and the Mass-start events (men’s 50km and women’s 30km), while the sprint events will be held in Clas­sic tech­nique. The Team sprint and re­lays will be the men’s 4x10km and women’s 4x5km.

Hol­land says the ath­letes who have pro­vi­sion­ally qual­i­fied for the Olympics by meet­ing the Al­ter­nate Qual­i­fy­ing Cri­te­ria A are Har­vey, Val­jas, Ker­shaw, Johns­gaard and Cock­ney. The ath­letes who have met the Al­ter­nate Qual­i­fy­ing Cri­te­ria B are Beatty, Emily Nishikawa and Kil­lick.

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