With Cross Country Canada (CCC) announcing selections for the Canadian World Cup and Senior Development Team last week, the Canucks are loading up for another season.
There were no surprises on the World Cup Team, as six of the seven have been part of the squad in the past. The one new addition, Len Valjas, is no shocker, because ‘Big Tall Lenny’, as he has been nicknamed by his teammates, tore up the World Cup circuit this season, and earned himself FasterSkier’s Rookie of the Year award.
Despite the retirement of George Grey, the World Cup Team has a serious amount of talent. And after his team provided plenty of fireworks last season, including a World Championship gold medal and two top-10s in the Tour de Ski, Head Coach Justin Wadsworth isn’t shying away from talking up the potential.
“We’re looking for top three for both Alex [Harvey] and Devon [Kershaw] in the Tour de Ski, and think Ivan can get back in top 10,” he said in a recent interview with FasterSkier.
Likewise, he is hoping to have two men in the top five of the World Cup Overall.
“If we do that, the number of World Cup victories and podiums will come up, possibly to around 10 podiums,” he said. “All three women are capable of a podium on any given day as well.”
“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “When I look back at where this team was this time last year we are already so far ahead…both in planning and in shape-wise. I’m really excited and I think our goals are absolutely attainable.”
While the World Cup team selections were routine, the Senior Development Team saw some controversial choices.
The biggest absence is Phil Widmer, a 28 year old Albertan who earned himself a spot on Canada’s World Championship team in 2011.
At the same time, Drew Goldsack and Graham Nishikawa were included. While both athletes were undoubtedly the cream of the crop domestically, internationally their success was slim – especially Goldsack.
At 30-years-old, Goldsack did not contest a single event outside of North America during the 2010-2011 season. Nishikawa earned himself start spots in the last two World Cup weekends, and finished in the top 30 just once, squeaking into 27th spot in the final race of the World Cup season.
Wadsworth acknowledged that the decision to exclude Widmer was not easy, calling “the hardest decision we had to make,” but stating that it ultimately it came down to improvement.
“We look for improvement at whatever level that skier was at. Both Drew [Goldsack] and [Graham] Nishikawa had improved domestically – they dominated the domestic scene. Phil had one international result where he scored World Cup points, which wasn’t an improvement from the past,” said Wadsworth.
Widmer’s one result? An 18th place finish in Davos, Switzerland, where he qualified for World Championships.
Wadsworth explained that last season Widmer was “on the bubble” and that because he was a much stronger skate skier than classic skier, they were looking for him to mature into more of an all-around athlete, including big improvements in classic. But those improvements never materialized, leaving Widmer on the outside.
“We invest a tremendous amount of money in athletes, and if they’re stagnating, we have to make a hard decision,” said Wadsworth, “It’s just especially hard with Phil, because he’s a talented skier and a super nice guy.”
Wadsworth emphasized Goldsack’s evolution from a sprinter to a more all-around skier as a key component to his re-nomination to the team, despite his lack of international results. Goldsack’s intense competition with Nishikawa for the NorAm lead saw him record his best results ever on the domestic scene, as he stood on the podium a whopping nine times, having success in all race formats.
The other surprise is the departure of Brittney Webster. Once considered the next big thing in Canadian skiing, Webster saw her results take a significant hit this season. However, according to Wadsworth, Webster was still nominated to the team, but opted to decline her spot.
FasterSkier has attempted to contact Webster throughout the winter and spring, but she has not returned multiple requests for an interview.
When asked about Webster’s decision, Wadsworth refused to elaborate, citing a lack of details at the time.
With the budget remaining the same in 2011-2012 as in the previous year, the number of athletes on the World Cup Team remains unchanged. However, the Senior Development Team will have a few modifications to its structure and execution.
All Senior Development Team athletes will now be part of one of Canada’s four Development Centers. Last year, Senior Development Team coach Eric de Nys oversaw three athletes (Perianne Jones, Graham Killick and Stefan Kuhn) who had no Development Center affiliation.
According to Wadsworth, this frees up de Nys for greater support and logistics for the World Cup Team, negating the need to hire an additional coach for the World Cup squad, a position CCC had advertised for during the winter.
Wadsworth also felt it made for a “real structured and clean development system” whereby athletes would flow from clubs to the development center’s to the World Cup team.
“I have real confidence in our coaches to develop those athletes,” he said.
Having a clear cut hierarchy was something Wadsworth favors; “Now, either you’re on the World Cup team or you aren’t,” he said.
The move eliminates any grey area to the National Team system, as last season there was some confusion over whether somebody like Graham Killick was receiving the same level of support as Devon Kershaw, but as far as Wadsworth is concerned, that has been erased.
As a result, communication between the National Team (including Wadsworth and de Nys) and the Development Centers have been stepped up, which Wadsworth feels will give the centers the best chance to develop athletes into World Cup contenders.
Wadsworth also mentioned that last winter there was a lack of clear logistical support for those Senior Development Team athletes who were racing and training domestically without a training center affiliation. While the Callahan Valley Training Center (CVTC) did step in to provide waxing services, having each athlete associated with a training center year-round makes it easier to provide the support.
Both the Senior Development Team and World Cup Team have begun training, and the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) is in the midst of an on-snow training camp at Sovereign Lake Nordic Club.
World Cup Team
Head Coach: Justin Wadsworth
Coaches: Eric de Nys, Louis Bouchard
Ivan Babikov – Foothills Nordic Ski Club
Chandra Crawford – Canmore Nordic Ski Club
Dasha Gaiazova – Rocky Mountain Racers
Alex Harvey – Club Nordique de Mont-Saint Anne
Perianne Jones – Nakkertok Ski Club
Devon Kershaw – Ona Wa Su
Len Valjas – Team Hardwood
Senior Development Team
Coaches: Louis Bouchard (CNEPH), Mike Cavaliere (AWCA), Eric Bailey (NDC-TB)
Jesse Cockney – Foothills Nordic Ski Club – AWCA
Drew Goldsack – Rocky Mountain Racers – AWCA
Graeme Killick – Banff Ski Runners – AWCA
Alysson Marshall – Larch Hill – AWCA
Brent McMurtry – Foothills Nordic Ski Club – CNEPH
Emily Nishikawa – Whitehorse – AWCA
Graham Nishikawa – Whitehorse – AWCA
Kevin Sandau – Foothills Nordic Ski Club – AWCA
Michael Somppi – Lappe Nordic – Thunder Bay NDC
Frederic Touchette – Club Nordique de Mont-Saint Anne – CNEPH
Dahria Beatty – Whitehorse
Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt – Club de ski de fond Fondeurs- Laurentides – CVTC
Raphael Couturier – Commission de ski nordique Skibec – CNEPH
Janelle Greer – Whitehorse – AWCA
Zach Holland – Banff Ski Runners – AWCA
Knute Johnsgaard – Whitehorse – CNEPH
Maya Macissac- Jones – Rocky Mountain Racers
Alex Mahoney – Rocky Mountain Ski Racers
Camille Pepin – Club Nordique M.S.A.
Rebecca Reid – Black Jack Nordic – AWCA
Geoffrey Richards – Black Jack Nordic – CVTC
Martin Schrama – Banff Ski Runners – CVTC
Sébastien Townsend – Club Nakkertok Nordique
Alexis Turgeon – Club de ski de fond Skinouk
Michelle Workun-Hill – Club Nakkertok Nordique
Para-Nordic World Cup Team
Head Coach: Robin McKeever
Mark Arendz – Foothills Nordic
Jody Barber – Bulkley Valley Ski Club
Colette Bourgonje – Snobuddy Ski Club
Chris Klebl – Lifesport
Brian McKeever – Foothills Nordic Ski Club
Robin McKeever (guide) – Foothills Nordic Ski Club
Erik Carleton (guide) – Rocky Mountain Racers
Para-Nordic Development Team
Coaches: Pierre Pomerleau, Robin McKeever
Sébastien Fortier – Skibec/Hus-ski