Editor’s Note: The ‘From The Pack by Fischer series’ features profiles about talented-and-intriguing junior and collegiate racers in the U.S. and beyond. While nordic sports are certainly not the largest, there are still thousands of great stories that most of us are not familiar with. We will be picking athletes out of this pack to write about; nominations for outstanding or interesting nordic skiers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “From The Pack.” We are looking for unique stories, not necessarily the fastest skiers. Nominations should include a brief explanation of why we should profile the athlete.
Moving up fast in the Canadian nordic-ski scene is Montreal’s Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier. After placing 14th in the 10-kilometre classic at Junior World Championships in February in Val di Fiemme, Italy, and winning the 20 k skiathlon at the Canadian Junior Championships last season, the 19-year-old Junior National Team member is seriously starting to make a name for himself in Canada and abroad.
Part of the Fondeurs-Laurentides ski squad in Alex Harvey’s hometown of Saint–Jérôme, Québec, Izquierdo-Bernier divides his time training in St-Jérôme, as well as working with the Pierre Harvey Training Centre, or CNEPH (Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre-Harvey), in his third season as a Canadian Junior National team member.
Last year, he lived in the Vercors of the French Alps with his family until August, during his father’s sabbatical year. He trained in Québec last summer and then spent two months in France training with French athletes and working with a personal coach.
FasterSkier recently caught up with Izquierdo-Bernier as he was getting settled into his new apartment, having moved just days ago to Québec City, where he’ll attend CEGEP (Collège d’enseignement général et professional, or “General and Vocational College”) classes in natural sciences.
The following interview has been translated from French to English.
FasterSkier: What attracted you to nordic racing and endurance sports in the first place?
Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier: It is my father who introduced me to nordic skiing when I was only three years old. I took ski lessons until I was ten, then started racing in both skiing and triathlon for several years. Last season was the first time I devoted myself entirely to nordic racing. I also competed in track and field from a early age.
FS: How satisfied were you with last season, after taking gold at Canadian Junior Championships and ranking 14th at the Junior World Championships?
RI-B: I was thrilled! My main focus was the Junior World Championships where I was really hoping to do well. I planned my entire season around this goal, so finishing 14th in the 10 k classic was a great success. I admit the rest of my season did suffer from concentrating so much on one event. This was new to me, as I never struggled with consistency before.
FS: Were you aiming specifically the 10 k classic race at Val di Fiemme?
RI-B: Not really. My hopes were high for the skiathlon [where he placed 57th due to waxing setbacks]. I didn’t expect such a good result in the classic event, as I performed poorly in my previous classic races earlier in the season. Looking back, I think that having raced several times in Europe before the Junior World Championships made a huge difference. I came in Val di Fiemme with no stress and knowing I could compete with these guys.
FS: How are you looking to improve from last season? What are you working on presently from a technical standpoint or training-wise to better yourself?
RI-B: I’ve always been a strong climber, but we discovered from last year that I lack speed and power on flat sections. I struggled to keep up with others and needed to dig deep to hold my own. This summer, we really focused on gaining strength and speed on flat terrain. I did plenty of double poling and one-skate sessions, as well as incorporating more strength training sessions in my preparation. We’re working primarily on speed and concentrating less on endurance.
I already feel stronger and can sustain a higher speed and generate more power both on 10- to 15-second sprints and one-minute intervals while double poling. Otherwise, technique remains an essential part of my preparation. I also have a special way of training, which I developed with my father and personal coach Daniel Mercier. I’ll keep following as much as possible their guidelines this season, along with those set by the National team.
FS: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
RI-B: The Junior World Championships remain my main objective. I hope to achieve a top 5 or top 10 in one event. After that, I’ll compete at the Canada Winter Games and plan on ending my season with good performances at the Canadian Nationals.
FS: What are your ambitions as an athlete? How do Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw and other Canadian team members inspire you?
RI-B: It brings plenty of motivation and confidence to hang and train with role models like Devon and Alex. My ultimate dream is to become an Olympian in nordic skiing.