From August 6-18, a select group of US junior skiers will be in Scandinavia for the International Junior Camp, an annual event hosted by the Norwegian Ski Federation. For the second year in a row, the National Nordic Foundation (NNF) is proud to provide funding to make this unique opportunity possible, working in association with the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA).
The International Junior Camp brings together the world’s best junior cross country skiers (born 1997-1998), not only providing an opportunity to work with top World Cup coaches and athletes but also to see how their peers from around the globe are preparing for next season. “The level of top international junior racing is evolving right now,” says trip leader and US Cross Country Development Coach Bryan Fish. “The level and expectation is shifting upward and we need to show our top juniors first-hand.” Training will include intervals through a bog, technical instruction on rollerskis, a running time trial, rollerski race and strength sessions.
Sweden, Finland, Italy, Canada and Norway are among the nations that will have athletes in attendance. A total of 15 countries participated last year with more expected for 2016. “It will be the job of our athletes and coaches to bring this information stateside and distribute it,” says Fish. Seven athletes and two coaches from the US are attending the International Junior Camp for 2016.
Unique for 2016 is an emphasis on female participation. Not only is there a minimum requirement for female athletes, but at least one of two coaches from each represented nation is required to be female as well. “We have made great strides with our women’s programs,” says Fish, “however that is not necessarily true across all World Cup skiing. The depth of field in World Cup [racing] is still greater in the men’s field and Norway is stressing gender equity at the International Junior Camp this season.” Fulfilling the requirement for a female coach, Bernie Nelson, of the Bend Endurance Academy will complete the coaching staff for the United States.
The camp officially kicks off on August 10 with a rollerski race in Hamar, Norway; but the US contingent will be arriving to Scandinavia a few days early to adjust to the new time zone and to have a few days on snow at the ski tunnel in Torsby, Sweden.
The International Junior Camp, and other Pillar Projects like it, are central to the NNF’s mission to support athletic excellence in developing Nordic athletes in the United States. “The NNF is the sole American funding for this project,” says Bryan Fish. “The athletes personally pay for their flights and a small portion of their room and board, but the NNF is keeping the costs of this project very attainable for these athletes.”
Seven NNF athletes (4 women and 3 men) will be attending this year’s International Junior Camp. Selection criteria for camp attendees restricted the age group to athletes born in 1997 and 1998; international performances (e.g. U18 trip, World Juniors and OPA Cup) were primary criteria for selection in conjunction with domestic racing performance and national ranking. A discretionary selection policy was also in place for selections.