This is the first preview in a quick-and-dirty series about Canadian elite teams. We asked coaches to send their 2012/2013 rosters and tell us what’s new for the coming season. We will be publishing additional reports over the next few weeks. Teams are presented in no particular order.
Team: National Development Centre Thunder Bay
Coaches: Mark Doble (head coach); Victor Wiltmann (assistant)
Senior roster: Andy Shields, Dudley Coulter, Bob Thompson, Jimmy Gunka, Jordan Cascagnette;
Erin Tribe, Andrea Lee
Who’s new: Thompson, and according to coach Doble, he’s fitting right in.
“After having spent the previous three seasons in Canmore as a member of the [Alberta World Cup] Academy, Bob’s personal approach to ski racing is very consistent with the professional ski culture that exists in Canmore,” Doble wrote in an email. “As a result, he brings an added level of maturity and motivation which really helps to balance out the equally important mentality to enjoy every minute of what we do. “
Who’s missing: Michael Somppi, Chris Hamilton and Harry Seaton.
Somppi and Hamilton joined the World Cup Academy this year, which was a good move in terms of new training partners and competition for the coming season, Doble wrote. Seaton’s going to focus more on school and possibly race at the university level.
Top results last season: Lee, 21, won the 15 k freestyle mass start at a NorAm in Mont Orford, Quebec, and finished 10th in the 30 k classic mass start at Canadian nationals. She and her teammate, Tribe, tallied several NorAm top 10s, and Tribe went on to place seventh, eighth and ninth at nationals in the skate sprint, 5 k classic and 30 k, respectively.
Hamilton had three top-50 results at U23 World Championships in Turkey, and Somppi – who’s also on the Canadian Senior Development Team – placed third at nationals in the 10 k classic and notched several NorAm podiums throughout the season.
Coach’s comment: When former head coach Eric Bailey announced he was leaving the Ontario team after eight years, Thunder Bay knew changes were coming. They got two new coaches, Doble from Team Hardwood and Wiltmann from the North Bay Nordic Ski Club, and Doble wrote that the spring and early summer went well.
“With me being new to the team, the athletes were forced to make a transition to a new coach and a new program,” he wrote. “As such, I felt that it was important to make this transition as easy as possible for the athletes, while, at the same time, continuing to do things in the way that I wanted and in the ways that I felt were the best for each athlete.”
According to Doble, May was hectic with Wiltmann not officially starting until the end of April, but Doble used his familiarity with Bailey’s training methods to ease the process.
“I also wanted to implement certain things that I knew were going to be a big change, and it was quite a balancing act to introduce these things in the right amounts and in the right way,” he wrote. “Establishing good communication was very important for this, which I feel has gone really well.”
For example, Gunka, who first admitted he was suffering from overtraining symptoms in January, is back to full-time training and using his experiences to move forward, Doble explained.
“We are in a place now where we have a very good idea of what each individual athlete needs, which has lead to some pretty drastic differences in training programs in certain cases. Every athlete has their own weaknesses, which constantly change as we train them. The fun part is to find what those weaknesses are, and then identify a strategy to remove that limitation.”
With Tribe, 23, as the oldest member of the seven-person squad, Doble found the team’s youth exciting.
“Two of our big goals for this year are to get as many people on the U23 Championships team as possible, and also capitalize on the National group spots for the Canadian World Cups,” he wrote. “I think these two goals are very motivating for this age group, and so it is awesome to work with really motivated athletes that are willing to take some risks and yet, at the same time, be very smart about the way they are preparing.”