Anyone who has followed elite cross country ski racing in North America in the past two years knows the name Ivan Babikov. He has been winning SuperTour and Ski Marathon races with impressive regularity recently, in many cases dominating the competition. He was the Grand Champion of the 2005 US Nationals, where he won two races.
But who is this Russian/Canadian phenom? We wanted to find out.
Lets start with the basics. How old are you? Where do you live? Who do you train with? Are you a full-time ski racer or do you have a job?
I am 24 years old and live in Canmore, Alberta. I train by myself almost all of the time. I am pretty much a full-time racer unless I need some extra money, but that is not very often.
Most North American ski racing fans first heard of you last year when you started winning races in Canada. What were your best ski results prior to last year?
My best results were when I was living in Russia, I was in the top-10 a few times for Russian National Championships.
Why did you decide to join the Subaru Factory Team this year and race
primarily in the US?
I was looking for something a little different this year and wanted to race more in the US to make more money so that I can have the opportunity to bring my wife and two year old son over from Russia. When I am in the US I race for the Subaru Factory Team, when I race in Canada, I race for XC.COM racing team.
You were also the most successful skier at the US Nationals at Soldier Hollow. Were you peaking for those races, or did you treat them as normal SuperTour races?
Yes, I was peaking for US Nationals, but I race as fast as I can for every race. I am also preparing especially for the American Birkebiener and Canadian Nationals.
How do you feel about the way the 'press' covers the US Nationals? Many publications only mentioned American skiers, even when you won the first two races. Is this similar to the way other countries report on their National Championships?
I was very upset that happened. People were confused when they thougth that I had won the race, and then saw another person on top of the podium. I tried to just focus on the race and not worry about this so much. Imagine what would happen if Kris Freeman or Carl Swenson were to race onver in Russia and win the race, only to not get any recognition by the media. I don't think anyone likes this, who knows you could start the Cold War all over again. 🙂
In another publication you mentioned that you would like to become a Canadian citizen so that you can race in international races for Canada. When do you think this will happen?
I don't know for sure when this will happen, it is very complicated. I would like this to happen as fast as possible, before the 2006 Olympics, but it takes time and lots of lawyers who know the right people.
You were one of five skiers who has been invited to ski the spring World Cup races, due to your outstanding SuperTour results. Have you ever raced a World Cup before?
No I haven't raced in World Cup before. I was elected to race in the World Cup in St. Petersburg in 2002. However I decided to not race because I had recently found out that my wife was pregnant with our son.
When will you go to Europe and which races will you be doing?
I am not sure when I will be headed over there because I'm Russian and it's very complicated with my visa and support over there. I would really like to go and take a chance to compete against the best skiers in the world.
Which North American races will you be doing before you leave for Europe?
The last race will probably be the Birkie.
What are some of the differences between racing in Russia and racing in the United States or Canada?
Racers over in Russia compete as more of a job and for money. Not so much for fun as in the US or Canada. The prize money is as good as it is here and it's tougher to be in the top-10 there. It's a different system where everyone has a coach and we don't have to think about travelling, everything is planned for us by the coach and the organizers.
Thank you for your time and good luck!