We can’t imagine anything much more exciting than making an event like World Championships for the first time, so we contacted the North American skiers living that exact dream this year. The U.S. Ski Team announced its 16-strong senior World Championships team on Jan. 26, and Cross Country Canada selected nine to its squad on Monday. On Tuesday, the U.S. added Ben Saxton as its 17th member.
Instead of interrogating them with the usual “tell us how you’re feeling,” we decided to pose the following 10 questions to each of the North Americans headed to their first World Championships from Feb. 18-March 1 in Falun, Sweden.
Jess Cockney, 25, is no stranger to big-time international racing. The son of Canada Winter Games multiple gold medalist, Angus Cockney, he competed in three events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, last season. In all, the Canadian National Development B-Team and Alberta World Cup Academy skier (originally from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories) has accumulated more than two dozen World Cup starts, with a best result of ninth in the freestyle sprint at home in 2012 in Canmore, Alberta.
“Looking forward to getting after it again after the long time off from racing,” Cockney wrote in an email on Tuesday.
He spent the last week in Meråker, Norway, east of Trondheim, at Canadian World Cup coach Tor-Arne Hetland’s cabin with World Cup teammates Devon Kershaw and Lenny Valjas. Before that, Cockney explained they were in Livigno, Italy, with Graeme Killick and Alex Harvey following the last World Cup in Rybinsk, Russia.
1. What was the first thing you did when you found out you were named to the World Championships team?
“I got back to work trying to find my speed again!”
2. What’s been the biggest result of your career so far? What one race stands out the most and why?
“Definitely my 9th place in the Canmore World Cup sprint a couple years ago. That was a crazy day and hopefully I can scratch the shape again soon.”
3. What are you most looking forward to at World Championships?
“I’m psyched to be back together with the whole team, it’s a wicked group and I love having them to share all these experiences with.”
4. What’s your biggest motivation while racing?
“My biggest motivation is to be the best that I can be on that day and make sure the work in the summer wasn’t wasted.”
5. Which race(s) do you hope or plan to compete in?
“I’ll race the classic sprint for sure and see how things are after that.”
6. If you could race the team sprint with anyone in the world, who would it be?
“Anyone from Foothills Nordic!”
7. Which World Cup skier would you least want to meet in a dark alley (or in the last 100 meters of a race)?
“Canmore had some rough streets growing up, I ain’t scared a no nordies.”
8. What will be your key to success in Falun?
“I’ve had trouble being mentally ready for the speed you gotta ski to make it in for top 30 so I really have to be in the moment and make things simple on race day.”
9. Finish this sentence: If I made the podium at World Champs, I would … :
“Dance in the finish until they take down the stadium for nighttime grooming, and probably keep dancing around the groomer.”
10. Name one person who’s had a major influence on your skiing career:
“Gord Jewett. Gord and I were teammates on the [Alberta World Cup Academy] for two years and it was huge for me to see how an athlete like him lived his day to day. Being around an older dog when I was a puppy I had my fair share of times when I got barked at and that definitely helped me take training seriously and be a pro at workouts.”