Next winter, up-and-coming Canadian athletes will have a big carrot dangling in front of them.
That’s because Cross Country Canada has begun an aggressive new strategy aimed at getting Canadian skiers the international racing experience they need.
In planning meetings this spring, the CCC High Performance Committee earmarked over $100,000 in budget money for what Head Coach Justin Wadsworth calls “convergence trips”.
These trips are geared towards developing athletes who are not FIS regional leaders, but are skiing well domestically, giving them a chance to race the OPA Cup and then the World Cup.
The trips will likely be packaged as a two-week stint in Europe, where the first weekend will be an OPA Cup, and if athletes perform well enough, and there are World Cup quota spots available, they will be asked to race on the World Cup the following weekend. If not, they will race an additional OPA Cup, and gain the international racing experience that so many consider to be crucial in building World Cup level athletes.
Two specific periods on the calendar have been selected. From November 5 to the World Cup opener in Kuusamo, Finland, Louis Bouchard of CNEPH will lead a group of as many as four athletes. The second trip runs from January 30 to Feb 19th, featuring two OPA weekends, and the Poland World Cup, if given the go-ahead by FIS.
Getting European racing experience is seen as a crucial step for developing athletes, but often the costs are prohibitive. With such a large chunk of the budget set aside, these trips will be primarily funded by CCC. A fee of around a thousand dollars will be charged to each athlete, however Wadsworth estimates the individual cost of the trip at around eight or nine thousand dollars.
As for selection criteria, in a recent conversation with FasterSkier, Wadsworth explained that for the early season, it would be coaches’ discretion.
“Last season, we made the decision with Lenny [Valjas] that he was looking really good, and we brought him over early,” said Wadsworth.
“It’s going to be the same this year – if Eric, or Louis, or Jefferies comes to me and says ‘hey, take a look at this guy,’ then they will be given a chance.”