Notes and Quotes: NorAm World Junior/U23 Trials

Gerry FursethJanuary 8, 2013
Graeme Killick (l) during Sunday’s skate sprint heats at the Lappe Nordic NorAm World Junior/U23 Trials in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: Martin Kaiser)

The NorAm World Junior/U23 Trials are over and athletes are heading in different directions with varying moods. Some have long trips home, some do not. Some qualified for Junior Worlds or U23’s in Liberec, some did not. Some took a step closer to earning a start at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, some took a step back. Many had more personals goals like executing tactical plans or holding technique to the end of the race.

The lists of skiers who qualified for trips doesn’t really show the time, effort, and determination that it took to achieve this goal.  It also doesn’t show all the ‘unsuccessful’ skiers who forced the successful athletes to reach higher.

The official Canadian U23 list has:

Andrea Lee (NDC Thunder Bay), Marlis Kromm (AWCA)
, Heidi Widmer (AWCA)
, Annika Hicks (AWCA)
, Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay)
, Patrick Stewart-Jones (AWCA), 
Russell Kennedy (AWCA), 
Colin Abbott (Yukon Elite Squad)

The junior list has:

Frédérique Vézina (CNEPH), 
Maya MacIssac-Jones (RMR), 
Cendrine Browne (CNEPH), 
Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok),
Anne-Marie Comeau (CNEPH), 
Raphaël Couturier (CNEPH)
, Alexis Turgeon (CNEPH), 
David Palmer (Black Jack)
, Ezekiel Williams (Nakkertok)
, Scott Hill (NDC Thunder Bay)

Most of these athletes were automatically selected by winning a race at Thunder Bay. Comeau and Widmer were selected by ‘force majeure’, meaning they didn’t qualify due to an illness beyond their control. Widmer was held out of the last two races with a suspected concussion.

Colin Abbott, David Palmer, Ezekiel Williams, and Scott Hill were selected based on their rankings, which include the Thunder Bay races. Full details are on the CCC website.

As ever, the racers had lots of interesting things to say.


On the recent past and the near future:

Chris Hamilton (AWCA):

I felt really good in the race on Sunday, was able to go hard right from the start and blast the entire course.

I am pumped with my results this weekend, I had my best ever Sprint result in Senior Mens(9th, pretty damn good for a “non-sprinter”) on Saturday and combined with Sundays first Senior NorAm podium, my confidence has definitely got a boost.

I will travel down to the next NorAms in Duntroon, followed by Easterns in Ottawa and Westerns in Grand Prairie. The Alberta World Cup Academy has a fairly busy schedule for the rest of the season, so I will be on the road for the next while.

Graeme Killick (AWCA):

I felt pretty good going into each race. I don’t think the results were quite there this weekend but my form is still there and I might just need a different course/condition to really bring it out. I struggled on the skate day with keeping the speed up on the gradual terrain. Something to definitely work on in the future. Not happy with the results from the weekend but looking forward to fighting for the NorAm spot again in Duntroon and Ottawa!

Brittany Webster (Highlands), on Sunday’s interval start where she was 4th:

I really like hills and lots of them so this course wasn’t the best for me. Power skiers really did well today- Kate, Em, Zoe. And in the men the local guys did really well and also those who were bigger and more powerful. Like Graham Nish, not my kind of course, too much flat. It was probably the most fun race of the season.

[Next] I’ll get my energy up and legs really rested and then focus on skating in preparation for the 10k skate at highlands. It is my home club!! So really looking forward to it. My sister always brings a massive cheering section, which will put a smile on my face. There’s nothing like racing at home with you friends, parents and supporters to cheer you on.

Alana Thomas (Nakkertok):

I was happy with how the 10k skate went today, I had good energy and had fun working all the twisty, fast sections of the course. The sprint yesterday was so-so so it feels good to bounce back from that with a stronger performance today.

I’ll head to Ottawa now to get some training in before the NorAm at highland’s nordic in 3 weeks. From there I’ll head to my parent’s place near Hardwood Ski and Bike to do the final prep for Highland’s. I’m pumped to get some more training and sharpening done in places I love!

Zoe Roy (RMR):

I felt good in the skiathlon, better than in earlier races this season. It felt great to get on the podium!

[In the sprint, I] didn’t feel really snappy but was able to sneak through the quarterfinals in the lucky loser spot! Stayed on my feet and made up time on the hill to come in 2nd in the B final.

[Sunday] was another fun but cold day! I made an in the start gate decision to ditch my boot warmers 😉 We had good skis today and I liked the course, it had a little bit of everything. I think it was a solid weekend as a whole.

I’m staying in the east until Duntroon instead of going back to Canmore to minimize travel and get some training in here. I’m headed off to Ottawa on Tuesday for a few weeks before then.

Emily Nishikawa (AWCA):

I felt pretty good today, and I’m really happy with my whole weekend.  Everything went really well, and I’m glad I was able to put together 3 good races in a row.  I’m back to Canmore tomorrow for a couple weeks, then back out east to Duntroon for more NorAms.

Phil Widmer (AWCA):

So far the season has been good. I was really happy to get a top 15 in Canmore [at the World Cup] and I had a solid Nor-Am before that.

My goal for the rest of the season, simply put, is to get a bit better with each race. It would be amazing to get the opportunity to race in Europe and we’ll see what happens.

Michael Somppi (AWCA):

I’ve had some good feeling all weekend on my skis.  Those feelings combined with some frustration at being close to the podium in the previous two races, but not quite making it fuelled my desire to win today.

Overall it was a strong weekend of racing for me.  I hope to continue to perform at this level for the rest of the season.  Next up on the schedule is the NorAm competition in Duntroon, Ontario at the end of the month.

Kevin Sandau (AWCA):

I was sick for the weekend, some light chest thing, but I don’t think it is going around. Started Saturday morning and felt better [Sunday] but decided to be on the safer side and not race.

David Greer (YES):

The Thunder Bay races were pretty mediocre for me. The races weren’t bad, I just know I’m capable of more. Next up for me is the Super Tour races in St Paul next weekend. John, Knute and I are currently in Duluth getting a bit of training in before we head over to Minneapolis next week.

Graham Nishikawa (AWCA):

Weekend was fun, overall ok.  I am happy with my performance on Thursday.

Russell Kennedy (AWCA), on Sunday:

I felt real good right from the start. I knew it was a good course for me and I had to get top U23 to secure a spot for the Liberec trip. It turned out to be the best race of my life. I was a little disappointed with my sprint result but I had finished as 2nd U23 in the pursuit and knew I could make a good weekend great today. Now I have set my focus to skiing fast in Liberec.

Knute Johnsgaard (YES):

I’m obviously a bit disappointed I didn’t get named to the U23 team but I feel it was a good race weekend.

I felt my races were better than what my results showed. It seemed like there was a lot of guys who just had that race of their life, which was kind of unfortunate for me.

With the Duntroon NorAm a couple weeks from now and easterns right after that, it didn’t make sense to spend another thousand bucks on a plane ticket home so we’re staying out east. John [Parry], David [Greer], and I will be racing the first weekend of the Tour de Twin Cities in Minnesota.

Jess Cockney (AWCA):

As a whole I am definitely disappointed in the way the weekend shook down and I’m looking forward to another shot at trials in a couple weeks. Next up is some training in Canmore and off to Duntroon for the next trials in a couple weeks.

Alexis Turgeon (CNEPH):

(After Thursday’s 2nd place) I’m happy about my result, but I got to stay focused because a 2nd place doesn’t give you a free pass to Europe. Planning on winning the sprint and then having a good 15km skate to finish the week. For the rest of the season I want to be on the podium in the classic sprint at World Juniors and top 10-15 results on the distance racing.

(After Saturday’s win) All the pressure is off now. I felt like I really had to qualify this year because I did last year. After my second place in the pursuit this sprint gives me confidence for the world champs. I’ll be able to ski way more relax in the future without any stress.

Raphaël Couturier (CNEPH), on moving up to senior heats from junior:

It’s a really good opportunity to improve my strategies and to have a better idea of what WJ will look like.

(Next up) The focus from now will remain on WJ and nationals in Whistler late March.

Colin Abbott (YES):

It feels like a relief to qualify, this was my last year to make the U23 team and I don’t think I realized how badly I wanted it until after the races were over. The weekend of racing was one of my most consistent ever. The 30km pursuit started slow and it let me settle in comfortably before the pace picked up. I was able to ski at the front of the race for a lot of the first 15km. My legs didn’t like the switch to skating much and I got dropped by the lead pack after the first skate lap. Despite that, I maintained my position well and finished as the 3rd U23 at the end of the day.

The classic sprint race was the first one to be held on the Noram circuit in over a year so I didn’t know what to expect going into it. The qualifier felt a bit shaky but I think that was the case for a lot of people. The quarterfinal was tactically very good for me and I qualified comfortably for the semis for the first time in my life. Despite the good quarterfinal my body let me down in the semis and B-final and I wound up in 12th position, 3rd U23.

The 15km individual skate race was the race I was the most worried about. It’s traditionally been my weakest event and I really needed to be in the top 5 or 6 U23 guys to be considered. I managed to get my head on straight before the start of the race and after 5km or so I was kind of surprised at how good I was feeling. That boosted my confidence a bit and I tried to ski as fast and efficient as possible to the line. There were incredibly tight results that day and I was happy to be towards to top of them.


On Thunder Bay:

Chris Hamilton (AWCA):

It was a really great boost to know all of the volunteers and locals who were out there cheering. After all the years living in Thunder Bay I’ve gotten to know all of their cheering voices, so I kinda unconsciously knew who was there beside the race course yelling for me. It was a very special feeling to be able to perform this well in front of all my family, friends and sponsors. They definitely helped carry me around the course.

Alana Thomas (Nakkertok):

I’ve got to mention how impressed I was with the course, T-Bay really loves skiing and volunteers spent hours and hours shoveling snow onto the race loops to make today possible – all worthwhile and much appreciated!

Graham Nishikawa (AWCA):

The organizers did an amazing job getting the course together- there is very little snow here!

Jess Cockney (AWCA):

The volunteers have done a great job with what they’ve got but the snowfall has been unseasonably low and there’s a few rocky sections in and around the stadium.

Michael Somppi (AWCA):

The trails are in race shape despite limited snow in Thunder Bay at the moment.  The ski community here has really worked hard to make this event possible and I am very grateful.

Emily Nishikawa (AWCA):

The organizers have done a great job getting the trails ready with a small amount of snow. We are using 2.5 km loops, so there will be a lot of laps- especially for the men!

Colin Abbot (YES):

Considering that Lappe has to make do with only the small amount of natural snow that has fallen so far this year they’ve done an amazing job with the trails.

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Gerry Furseth

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