Note: This is the third of four previews providing an inside look at Canada’s national training centres this season. We asked coaches to tell us what’s new, whom to look out for and the outlook on the winter ahead. Teams are presented in no particular order.
Team: National Development Centre Thunder Bay (NDC)
Coaches: Timo Puiras (head coach), Victor Wiltmann (assistant coach)
Other staff: Eric Bailey (executive director), Camille Cheskey (wax technician), Paul Hemsworth (strength and conditioning coach)
Seniors: Andy Shields, Jack Carlyle, Nick Monette, Bob Thompson, Erin Tribe, Alannah Maclean; Juniors: Scott Hill, Evan Palmer-Charrette, Ben Wilkinson-Zan, Jenn Jackson
Who’s new: Jackson (from Team Hardwood in Ontario) and Wilkinson-Zan (from Nakkertok in Ontario).
Who’s missing: Andrea Lee (studying in New Mexico); Dudley Coulter (now an athlete development coordinator for Cross Country B.C. in Vernon); Jimmy Gunka (at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.); Jordan Cascagnette (at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont.); Julian Freitag (studying at a university in southern Ontario).
Top results last season: Last December, Shields and Tribe both qualified for the Quebec and Canmore World Cups, with Shields notching 41st in the Quebec skate sprint and Tribe placing just outside the individual top 50 in Quebec in 57th.
In January, Shields, Hill and former NDC skier Lee all made it to Liberec, Czech Republic, for the Junior and U23 World Championships. Back home, Hill, Carlyle, and MacLean each reached the NorAm podium as juniors.
Of six seniors, five are still in the U23 bracket (excluding 24-year-old Tribe), and the team has a new head coach in Timo Puiras.
“It is a great group of athletes to work with,” Puiras wrote in an email last month. “Everyone is motivated and improving.
In late July, the team traveled to Austria for three weeks of on-snow training on the Dachstein glacier. “Half of our athletes had never been to Europe before so this was not only a great training camp but also a great learning experience,” Puiras explained. “All of our athletes have their main racing goal involve making it to Europe this winter.”
They spent the bulk of their training season in and around Thunder Bay, with smaller groups of athletes attending Ontario provincial camps. Before heading to Canmore, Alberta, for two weeks of skiing earlier this month, three NDC skiers (Shields, Carlyle and Scott) completed a time trial in record time and joined four others to slip under the Pancake Run’s 1:20-mark since 1979.
Recent in-team testing has also indicated all-around improvement, and Puiras is excited about what his athletes could accomplish this season.
“We want to qualify as many athletes as possible for World Junior/U23 Championships,” Puiras wrote. “As a program we’ve started working more closely with a Strength and Conditioning coach and I’d like this relationship to continue to grow here in Thunder Bay.”
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.