Six years in as the Canadian national team’s head coach, Justin Wadsworth speaks with tempered confidence. And there’s good reason for that. After concluding an altitude camp in Park City, Utah, three weeks ago, he says the Canadians are fit, healthy and primed for what he hopes will be a special season.
FasterSkier reporter Jason Albert spoke with Wadsworth last Friday, Oct. 23, three days before the Frozen Thunder classic sprint in Canmore, Alberta.
Wadsworth attributes some of the team’s positive outlook to an organization emphasizing better communication and collaboration between the national team and regional training centres.
“I feel like we’ve struggled with that a little bit in the past, but now more than ever, our training centres, coaches, and national training centre are really working closely together,” he explained.
Canada’s series of training camps this summer and fall were an opportunity for skiers striving for international starts to work out with World Cup skiers.
“I really feel like this year has been a huge success and a step forward a far as our collaboration with the training centres,” Wadsworth said. “I think we have a very methodical stable program and we are just checking off the boxes and now we are coming up to that part of the season where we have to transition all that into speed on the snow.”
According to Wadsworth, national-team skiers like Emily Nishikawa are ready for that transition.
“She’s in the best shape she’s ever been in by far,” he said.
He added that veteran World Cup skier Ivan Babikov is returning to his former levels of fitness.
“He showed us in the time trial in Soldier Hollow. He was five seconds behind Alex [Harvey] in that, and we all know where Alex is,” Wadsworth said.
With two individual World Championship medals last season, it’s hard to imagine Harvey could exceed expectations this season. But post iliac artery surgery, Wadsworth says Harvey is a new skier.
“His surgery really allowed him to come to a new level. He’s just been breaking all his running time trial efforts by minutes,” Wadsworth said. “He’s going to be scary this year with his legs feeling good.”
After on-snow racing this week at Frozen Thunder, the national team heads to Gällivare, Sweden, in mid-November for its final preseason training camp. The World Cup eventually lands in Canada in March for the 2016 Ski Tour Canada. As the host country, Canada is allotted 26 starts in the tour: 14 male and 12 female, Wadsworth said.
He acknowledged expectations are high. “Without a doubt our biggest race this year is the Tour of Canada,” he said. “It’s our World Championships, and we really want to have a lot of great results there from all different levels of our program.”
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.