Babikov and Louis Bouchard to lead Canada’s World Cup athletes
CANMORE, Alta. — Ivan Babikov has officially closed the book on his successful cross-country skiing journey as an athlete, but is ready to write the first chapter of his new career as a coach with the National Ski Team, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada announced on Friday.
The three-time Olympian will play a critical role with Louis Bouchard to help put the maple leaf back on the international podium while leading the World Cup Team on the tracks to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and well beyond.
“Ivan was a tireless athlete who was known for his relentless pursuit of excellence throughout his 10 years on the Canadian National Ski Team. I expect the same drive and determination from him in his coaching career,” said Tom Holland, high-performance director, Cross-Country Ski de Fond Canada. “Trust and chemistry are key ingredients to any successful team. Ivan has always been one of the most respected athletes in our program. He brings tremendous experience and insight on what it takes to succeed on the World Cup. I believe that working alongside Louis (Bouchard), Ivan will be an extremely valuable tool to the success of our Team well into the future.”
Bouchard, who has been a World Cup Team coach over the last 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 Cup level athletes based in Canmore, Alta., while also serving as B-Team coach. He will also provide coaching support to the athletes in the Alberta World Cup Academy based at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
“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 high-level coaching diploma from a university in his hometown of Syktyvkar, Russia, before he immigrated to Canada. “It is my goal to share what I’ve learned and experienced throughout my career to help the younger athletes develop, and the top guys achieve excellence. I really care so much about all of the Canadian athletes – from the development to elite level – and the success of this program. I hope I can play a small role in this team of highly-dedicated coaches to help all of the athletes achieve their dreams.”
Canada’s cross-country ski athletes will continue to benefit from a national program structure, which will see a strong pool of coaches from across the country integrated into supporting World Cup coaching duties, while further strengthening the high-performance culture into the development team athletes.
Bouchard and Babikov will guide a talented group of four active coaches across the country whose focus will be on developing the next generation of Olympians from coast-to-coast. Charles Castonguay will also offer support on the World Cup, while coaching at the Pierre Harvey Training Centre.
A trio of coaches will focus on the developing women’s program. Chris Jeffries will take on the responsibility of National Ski Team Women’s Team coach, while serving as the high-performance program director of the Alberta World Cup Academy. Kathy Davies will be the technique coach for the Women’s Team, while Lisa Patterson will be the 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 that are living and embedded in our training centres across the country,” said Holland. “A Canadian-based program brings greater stability and synergies in coaching philosophy and sport science approaches – and, ultimately, a stronger platform to breed medal-winning performances from our current- and next-generation high-performance athletes.”
Each of the coaches on both the National Ski Team will continue to report to Tom Holland who has been part of the national program since 1996 as a volunteer, and full-time with the team in 2006. Holland will play a critical role in creating a coaching environment that is seamless and integrated.
A career highlighted by a fourth-place finish at the 2013 World Championships, Babikov’s best result at the Olympics was a fifth-place result in the pursuit race at the 2010 Games in Vancouver-Whistler. He had one victory on the final stage of the Tour de Ski in 2009 to go along with two other World Cup podium finishes and three, fourth-place finishes and a handful of top-10’s on the World Cup. Babikov skis into the next stage of his life after rattling off three, top-15 finishes at the prestigious Ski Tour of Canada last March.
“Transition is never easy and I think it will be tough for me at first to be on the sidelines knowing I won’t be skiing, but I really can’t think of a better way for me to go out than having a really strong finish to the World Cup season on home snow at the Ski Tour of Canada and working with a group of athletes that have been family for me since coming to Canada,” said Babikov. “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.”
Babikov immigrated to Toronto with his mother in the hopes of pursuing his ski career with the Canadian program in the spring of 2003. He moved to Canmore, Alta. that fall where he began racing domestically. Babikov dominated the domestic race circuit while wearing a Canadian National Ski Team uniform, but under a Russian FIS license – as part of a Canada/Russia agreement. He represented Russia at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games before competing for Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Games. He finally received his Canadian citizenship in 2007 and became a full Canadian National Ski Team member in 2009, living in Canmore with his wife and two children.
Babikov and Bouchard will lead the Canadian squad through their first training camp of the season this weekend in Mt. Tremblant, Que.