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.
Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt, 22, has never been to the World Cup, and she doesn’t belong to a Canadian national training centre, either. Yet next week, she’ll be one of Canada’s select few racing at her first World Championships in Falun.
How did that happen? Bouffard-Nesbitt, who trains with Rocky Mountain Racers in Canmore, Alberta, placed 12th when it counted — last Saturday in the 15 k skiathlon, the last race of U23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Two days later on Monday night, she arrived in Östersund, Sweden, to meet the rest of the Canadian World Cup team. This Saturday, one week after her breakthrough race, she plans to race the classic sprint in her first World Cup.
“I’m feeling pretty run down so I’ve mostly been resting, trying to get my energy back,” Bouffard-Nesbitt explained in an email. “As my first-ever World Cup, my only goals are to enjoy it, to absolutely make the most out of it, and learn!”
1. What was the first thing you did when you found out you were named to the World Championships team?
“I was up the night after the skiathlon and everyone had gone to bed, but our team leader told me to stay up to wait for an email that would be coming from our HP director. When the email appeared in my inbox, my heart raced and I couldn’t stop grinning, and then I just collapsed into bed, not to say that I actually slept though. How could I fall asleep after getting news like that!”
2. What’s been the biggest performance of your career so far? Which race stands out the most and why?
“Without the question the last race I did, twelfth place in the skiathlon at Worlds in Kazakhstan! Every one of the three races from Worlds this year are memorable for me. They were all great races, and after each one of them I was never able to contain my excitement. After I found out I was 17th in the 10k skate, I just jumped and hugged whoever was in the room with me at the time. A coach told me shortly after that had I not fallen I would have been top fifteen. All I could say was ‘I should probably be disappointed, but I don’t even care because I just came 17th!’ That was an unprecedented result for me!”
3. What are you most looking forward to at World Championships?
“Everything! It’s World Champs! It’s a huge dream realized. I honestly can’t pick out one thing, I’m just stoked for the experience!”
4. Whats your biggest motivation while racing?
I don’t want to have any regrets at the end of a competition, so I always tell myself to not leave anything out on the course. As my friend Sophie [Carrier-Laforte] would say: ‘Donne ta vie!’ [literally, ’Give your life!’]”
5. Which race(s) do you hope or plan to compete in?
“We will make decisions closer to the event about what races I will do, but right now I’m looking at the sprint and the 10k skate.”
6. If you could race the team sprint with anyone in the world, who would it be?
“Another Canadian. Anyone who I’ve trained with and shared the journey with.”
7. Which World Cup skier would you least want to meet in a dark alley (or in the last 100 meters of a race)?
“Hmmm probably Petukhov, but I’m sure he’s just misunderstood.”
8. What will be your key to success in Falun?
“I’m going to continue to focus on process over outcome, and I’m just going to try to do everything in my power to have the best possible races. I don’t have any loft expectations, so I’m really looking forward to just gaining some experience!”
9. Finish this sentence: If I made the podium at World Champs, I would …
“Get really funky and dance my way up to the podium and wouldn’t stop until we shut the after-party down!”
10. Name someone who’s had a major influence on your skiing career.
“Les Parsons. He helped me develop so much as a younger athlete and taught me everything I know about the mental aspects of racing and being an athlete. I owe him a lot and I am totally motivated by the time he’s selflessly invested in me and others.”