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While the famous father-and-son duo Pierre and Alex Harvey is at the very heart of cross-country skiing in the province of Quebec, another family name has become increasingly part of Quebec’s nordic culture: Vézina.
Former Canadian Ski Team member Jocelyn Vézina was one of Canada’s strongest skiers in the ’80s, alongside teammates Pierre Harvey and Yves Bilodeau (now Canada’s head wax technician). His 20-year-old daughter, Frédérique Vézina, a first-year senior, is rising fast on the Canadian nordic ski scene.
Just like Alex Harvey, she grew up at the foot of the Mont-Sainte-Anne ski slopes — 200 meters precisely. Eager to race and expend her energy, she joined MSA Nordic Ski Club. Competing in both cross-country skiing and kayak at the time, she chose to give up the latter in her mid-teens.
“The ski lifestyle was more appealing to me. I liked the fact that it involved so much diversity,” Vézina said last month on the phone from her home in Saint-Ferréol-Les-Neiges. “In the summer, I’ll run, cycle, even do triathlons, which all prepare me well for skiing.”
And while her background in kayak boosted her upper-body strength in skiing, she said that now she struggles to keep up on the water with her former teammates.
Last year’s racing season was “long but rewarding,” the former junior national-team member said. Her consistency at the Canadian Juniors — she placed third, second and won the last race —- enabled her to make the trip to Val di Fiemme, Italy, for the 2014 FIS Junior World Ski Championships.
With wax setbacks, she placed 30th in the skiathlon, but found success a week later in a FIS race in Ramsau, Austria.
“Last season, I spent two months away from home, competing in Europe,” she said. “We had bad skis in Italy, but Austria was a big hit for me! I made it to the podium [in second place] in the 7.5 k skate race, which was really unexpected.”
She loves distance races, especially the skiathlon, said sprinting isn’t her strongest suit.
“I think I have much more slow-twitch muscle fibres. I’m built on my father’s slim frame,” she said.
This summer, she worked on her weaknesses, focusing on speed and devoting more time to anaerobic training. She stayed mainly at home, training with the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre (Centre National d’Entraînement Pierre Harvey, or CNEPH) team, then in October, joined other members of the Canadian national team in Park City, Utah, for an altitude camp.
This season, she hopes to qualify for the U23 World Ski Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. So far, she’s posted two top-30 results at the U.S. SuperTour in Bozeman, Mont., where she was 23rd in the 10 k classic and 29th in the classic sprint, and two top 20’s (13th and 18th) in the 7.5 and 10 k classic races at the NorAm opener Dec. 13-14 in Rossland, British Columbia. She did not race at the most recent NorAm Dec. 19-20 at Sovereign Lake, B.C.
“I’m aiming for a top 20 in Kazakhstan,” she said. “I just received a bunch of skis to try out. I hope that the only thing stopping me from good results will be myself, not my skis!”
Asked whether she dreams of representing Canada at the Olympics one day, she hesitates for a moment.
“I’m not one to dream too much. Of course I would like to race at the Olympics, but if I do, I want to do well, not just participate. If anything, I dream of becoming the next Beckie Scott!” she said. “She didn’t benefit from all the programs available to today’s young athletes, yet did really well and became a role model for us. If she could do it, why can’t I?”
Vézina recently completed her CEGEP (Collège d’Enseignement Général et Professionnel) and has considered pursuing a career in sports medicine.