While he may have raced for the final time as a member of the Alaska Nanooks team, senior Vahur Teppan’s skiing career is far from over, as he has been invited to join his native Estonia’s national B team: one step away from the highest level of international competition.
â€œIt is nice that Estonia contacted me and to know that they kept an eye on me,â€ Teppan said. â€œThey have really good coaches there, and it’s a good opportunity to train with the best Estonia guys. I am going for sprinting, so it’s a lot of man-on-man racing: it’s not like you will be skiing alone in places. So it is really important to be training with the best in head-to-head situations. It’s a lot easier than training on your own.â€
As a member of the national B team, Teppan will travel and train with the Estonian national side as well as race in various test events around the world, where he will be given a prime opportunity to catch the eye of coaches choosing their World Cup racers.
â€œBasically it gives you a shot to make the A team and get starts in the World Cup and that type of thing.â€ head coach Scott Jerome said. â€œIt’s certainly a step in the right direction for Vahur: there’s no guarantee that it will lead to races in the World Cup or the Olympics, but it certainly opens some doors for him. There is something to be said for getting in with a national system: he gets to go to camps and stuff like that with the team, and they are the first people to get the look when it comes to qualification.â€
Though members of the B team are often called upon to provide their own funding, Jerome believes Teppan shouldn’t have any difficulty finding sponsorships to help make this possible, even going as far as to pledge to help the senior himself.
â€œI am certainly motivated to work with some of our boosters to provide a little bit of help, whatever we can do,â€ Jerome said. â€œIt probably wouldn’t be much, but he’s given so much to our program, we certainly want to help him out any way we can.â€
Teppan was already called up to the Estonian national side earlier this season, representing his country at the Alberta World Cup races in Canada this past January. At the Canmore Nordic Center, Teppan took part in both the freestyle and classic sprint races, qualifying for the quarterfinals in the latter before taking home 19th place overall: Estonia’s best finish at the Alberta World Cup.
â€œAfter Estonia saw his results at the World Cup, they saw that he was the real deal,â€ Jerome said. â€œI think how he did at the World Cup were a big reason he got this invitation to join the B team: he really made the most of that opportunity.â€
Teppan also competed at the international level once prior to joining the Nanooks, placing 48th in a classic sprint in a Jan. 2006 World Cup event hosted by Estonia.
His selection for the Estonia national team caps off a fine 2007-08 season for Teppan after he landed two All-American spots at the NCAA Skiing Championships in March, nabbing first team honors with his fifth-place finish in the 20K classic race and second-team honors with an eighth-place finish in the 10K skate.
Teppan also turned in impressive showings at two national events this season, scoring podium spots at both the U.S. senior nationals held in Michigan this January and the U.S. distance nationals here in Fairbanks last month. In the sprint races at both events, the senior more than held his own against some of the world’s top skiers, turning in the top collegiate finish and taking third behind U.S. Ski Team members Torin Koos and Andy Newell in both instances.
â€œThat really gave me a lot of confidence,â€ Teppan said. â€œThose races showed that I can race with those guys. Right now, I am not faster than them, but I can stick with them and race head-to-head with them. That gave me confidence, but there is still a long way to go to get better and faster. I just have to be patient and work steadily towards my goals.â€
Teppan’s invitation marks the second time as many years that the Alaska ski program has made an impact at the international level. Current Nanook Elisabeth Habermann and then-teammate Bart Dengel (who skied this past season with Alaska Pacific University) both landed spots to represent America at the U.S. Junior World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy last year.
â€œI think this just proves that we are a legitimate ski program: we had someone come in here for two years, improve his skiing and now is going onto the world stage.â€ Jerome said. â€œWe hope people who are looking for a good ski program will really give us a hard look. We are doing our best to produce athletes that can compete at both the national and international level, and despite the challenges we have up here, we are really making things work.â€
Source: Alaska Nanooks