Phil Widmer is no stranger to sprinting at the highest levels of skiing. At 28, the Canadian has started 17 World Cups, raced at two World Championships, and represented Canada at the Torino Olympics in 2006.
Despite falling short of the Olympic team last year, Widmer dominated the North American sprint scene. He finished on the NorAm podium three times, and won a SuperTour sprint before opting for surgery at the end of February to clear up a lingering shoulder injury.
Widmer, a member of the Pierre Harvey National Training Center (CNEPH), based in Quebec City, is starting this season in Europe with several of his promising training center teammates . FasterSkier recently caught up with Widmer to find out how he managed to move past missing out on a home Olympics, how his summer training went, and his French fluency.
FasterSkier: Last season you started off with a bang – a win on the first NorAm sprint, as well as at an Alberta Cup. I am sure making the Olympics for the second time was a major goal of yours, and judging by your blog entry, you weren’t all that happy with the outcome. How did you regroup and refocus on the season following the trials races? I know plenty of Canadians decided that was the end of the line for them – was there ever any doubt about you continuing to race?
Phil Widmer: Without a doubt, it was disappointing not to make the Olympic team. It was the biggest goal I had last year. That being said, the other success I had throughout the year made it clear to me I still haven’t stopped improving, and I want to prove to myself and others what I’m capable of.
FS: You then collected another win in Val Cartier before heading to the World Cups in Otepaa, Estonia, and Rybinsk, Russia. How did you end up on that trip? What was your European World Cup experience like?
PH: The one trip I had overseas to race last year didn’t go as well as I’d hope. I had a bit of cold in Estonia and got this fever the night before the sprint in Russia. Health was an issue, but the countries were amazing to visit!
FS: How was your summer at CNEPH? Have you been putting in good quality training hours and sessions?
PH: Training with CNEPH has been awesome. I feel like this has been my best training year to date. The number of quality intensities and strength sessions has been sweet. I’ve been sick for only a couple days and my energy has been good.
FS: What has the experience in Quebec been like compared to Canmore? Have you picked up some French?
PH: Training in Quebec is a bit different, but at the end of the day it’s about getting the work done, to the highest level I’m capable of. There’s a big emphasis placed on strength and intensity, which I really like. I wish my French was better than it is! One of my many non-skiing goals is to improve my French, but I need to make a better effort. Living with four Anglophones [team mates Len Valjas, David Greer and Brent McMurtry] makes it tough.
FS: Is having a large, high-quality training group of guys like Alex Harvey, Brent McMurtry, and Lenny Valjas an important part of your workout? Are they key to taking your success to the next level?
PH: Absolutely – having such great training partners is a huge part of any ski program. We all push each other every workout.
FS: Is there a particular workout with the team, or that CNEPH Coach Louis Bouchard prescribes, that you really like?
PH: I think my favorite “Louis” workout is the off-road roller skiing we do. You don’t have to worry about slipping, or breaking poles or tips, and there’s some reaction training to it as well. It’s a lot like sprinting, so I think it’s great.
FS: You’re in Europe now, gearing up for some early season European racing experience. What is your race schedule?
PH: We raced in Bruksvallarna, and it wasn’t a great start to the year, but it was good to get things going and get the competitive juices flowing. From here, we go to Finland for another training race, and then the Kuusamo World Cup. From there, it’s off to Dusseldorf, Germany, and then onto Davos, Switzerland.
FS: What’s the goal of this trip for you? More experience? Heats? World Cup points? What do you feel like you still need to work on?
PH: For sure, my goal is to get deep into the rounds. I haven’t made the top 12 in a sprint, and that’s a big goal of mine. At this point there’s a bit of fine-tuning that we need to make before I find my top gear.