At this year’s Cross Country Canada (CCC) annual meeting held in Corner Brook, NF, Jeff Whiting received an award for the years of hard work and dedication he’s put into Para-Nordic skiing as both a volunteer and and staff member. Earlier this month, CCC announced his retirement from the position of Western Para-Nordic Development Coordinator.
“Jeff’s athlete-centered approach, dedication, knowledge and experience of the Para-Nordic sport will always be remembered and will still continue to serve the community,” said CCC in a press release from early June.
Whiting started working with paranordic athletes when he was recruited by Saski Skiing for Disabled in Saskatchewan to teach first aid to guides in 1986. Since then, he’s aided many an athlete in realizing their dreams.
He coached his first skier, Joe Harrison, in 1989. Harrison, an above-the-knee amputee, competed in two Paralympics: the 1992 Albertville Games and the 1994 Lillehammer Games. He had top finishes of 5th place in both.
The 2010 Vancouver Paralympics were the third Games that Whiting has attended. He was a ski patroller for the 1988 Olympics and the Nordic Team Manager at the 2002 Salt Lake Games. The 2010 Games had the highest-ever number of Canadian athletes competing, as well as the highest medal count, thanks to the time and dedication that all staff have put in, including Whiting.
“I’m proud to have been part of a group of coaches to have helped so many athletes get to the highest level of competition,” he said in an interview.
One of the highlights of his career was when Colette Bourgonje, a sit skier and one of his athletes, obtained her first–and Canada’s first–medal at the 1996 International Paralympic Committee World Championships in Sunne, Sweden.
Those that worked with Whiting had nothing but positive things to say.
“Jeff has always been willing to share the immense knowledge and experience he has amassed as a pioneer in the sport of Para-Nordic skiing,” wrote Gary Fohr of the Cross Country Ontario Para Nordic Committee in a retirement letter.
“The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Jeff is that even though cross-country skiing is an individual, not team sport, if we work together, we all will be better athletes individually,” said Courtney Knight, one of Whiting’s athletes who competed in the 2010 Paralympics.
In addition to coaching, Whiting was instrumental in the development of results monitoring equipment in Para-Nordic athletes, as well as Para-Nordic equipment development in Saskatchewan at the sport’s early stages of development. He was, and still is, involved in research, design and development of nordic sleds in the province.
Despite retirement from CCC, Whiting will be keeping himself busy. He’ll continue to coach a club in Saskatoon, SK, as well as officiating and facilitating coaching courses in the province. He’ll be Para-Nordic Assistant Coach for Saskatchewan at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, as well as putting his name in to be an official for the 2011 Nationals in Canmore.
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