The idea was simple: take your best athletes, put them in the same training space as your younger, developing skiers, and hope their talent rubs off. A group of coaches discussed that concept last fall at the Canadian National Team’s annual camp in Park City, Utah. But rather than talk about it, Justin Wadsworth, Louis Bouchard, Chris Jeffries, and Timo Puiras created a plan to make it happen.
The first Alignment camp, held June 19 to July 3 in Canmore, Alberta, included about 40 skiers, mostly from Canada’s three national-training centres: Pierre-Harvey, Thunder Bay and the Alberta World Cup Academy, as well as some clubs. Coaches, strength training and physiologists came along, too.
“It was an open camp…,” Wadsworth explained in a phone interview. “We had a big group of not only athletes, but of coaches and support staff around to make sure we’ll all doing the best thing we can for the athletes.”
The national team head coach, Wadsworth credited the collective brainpower of the coaches at the Park City camp for the alignment idea, which was meant to unite the nation’s top talent for two weeks.
“To get all the athletes together in one place and really push each other is really helpful,” he said. “I think that’s part of why the Norwegians are so good; they have so many athletes that are going for so few spots [on the national team] and the competition in training is so high. I’ve seen it firsthand, being part of their camps, and it’s a healthy thing. It brings out everybody’s ‘A’ game.”
FasterSkier asked Wadsworth more about the domestic camp, and how it went in its first year.
FasterSkier: What was the goal of the alignment camp, and how successful was it?
Justin Wadsworth: It was really important, with that many people, to make sure that we were organized and executing the workouts well, so that’s where we really had a lot more preparation to really lay out each workout and the timing of it, how we were going to run it, and making sure we had enough eyes on all the groups. We had an anaerobic interval session out here and had almost 50 athletes so we had to be really on top of making sure that everyone had a good quality workout, but we also want our best athletes to make sure they’re not getting lost in the shuffle. I don’t think there was a single workout that we walked away from thinking, “Oh, that was just a sh*t-show.” It was all very well run and that was [because of] a lot of input from all the coaches working ahead of time. Overall, I think everyone came out of the camp feeling really good and having guys like [World Cup athletes] Alex [Harvey], Devon [Kershaw], Ivan [Babikov], and Len [Valjas] … they took the time to talk about their experiences before the workouts and give a little preamble. Other athletes could hear how the older athletes were going to execute [the workout]. That was really successful.
FS: Why was Canmore picked as the camp venue?
JW: For one, money. We have a lot of our resources here and the NST [national ski team] and the Alberta World Cup Academy are based here, and Canmore is a great place because we have a lot of housing available. Funding was a big part of it, getting everybody somewhere else [like New Zealand], we just don’t have the money for it right now. Our budget’s been cut half a million in two years, so we have to be really careful with our resources. The other reason we chose Canmore, we wanted to do testing for a lot of the out-of-town athletes. We basically had two or three days on the [rollerski] treadmill where athletes got tested from the different training centres. … Plus Canmore is a great place to train. Another part was the altitude; we did want to have some brief altitude exposure so we spent a couple days at Highwood Pass [the highest paved pass in Canada at 2,200 meters/7,240 feet] and a day at Sunshine Meadows [2.300 meters/roughly 7,500 feet].
FS: Where is the national team headed next for camp? How has the budget this year affected your training destinations?
Note: Three members of the Senior NST — Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw and Jess Cockney — are currently training at altitude in Livigno, Italy. A women’s camp is taking place in Quebec, starting Aug. 9, with Emily Nishikawa (NST), Dahria Beatty (NST/Alberta World Cup Academy) and members of the Thunder Bay and Pierre-Harvey training centres.
JW: The only person funded for [the Livigno camp] is Alex. The cost of it is fairly prohibitive so only Devon, and Jess Cockney are joining Alex there, and they’re paying their own way. … We’re able to provide a little bit of funding for the national-team women to go [to Quebec] but basically we don’t have the money for a New Zealand camp this summer. We just have to get through and everyone has to keep training while on their own, or if they’re going to these camps, they’re paying for it. The next camp after that will be a camp that is funded and everyone will be going to — it’s our only real camp outside Canmore this year — and that’s in Park City. That’s an [eighteen-day] altitude camp in September and October. I’d love to have brought the team to New Zealand or to race in Norway, like the U.S. is doing, but we just don’t have the money.
FS: How have the staffing changes at Cross Country Canada affected the team?
JW: The changes that have happened, which were basically losing Tor-Arne [Hetland], hasn’t changed much as Tor-Arne just came in for camps last year. I’m still here, Louis is still in Quebec and is leading the training camp in Livigno, and I’ll be going to the women’s camp in Quebec, and then we’ll both be in Park City. In the winter, we’re just going to flip flop in sections … Having one less staff is just [because of] less money [in] the budget. Maybe it isn’t the most ideal situation, but we just have to look at the positives of it and make it happen, and get the results this year.
FS: How has the announcement of the 2016 Tour of Canada affected the team?
JW: I think it has made a big impact on the athletes. It’s definitely the biggest goal of the year, to get as many podiums as we can there and also get a lot of good results from the younger athletes. You know, we always talk about how going to Europe is hard for people because of the time changes and here we have races that are going to be in our backyard so there are no excuses. We really need to perform as a team there at all the different levels. It’s exciting, and I can’t wait for it to happen. It’s going to be a pretty fun eleven days.