For the past 13 years, Eric de Nys has been ingrained in the sport of cross-country skiing and its offshoots, including biathlon. He spent 10 years as a coach on Cross Country Canada’s national team, leading the women’s World Cup team in his final two years there.
Based in the same town and out of the same training facilities in Canmore, Alberta, de Nys parted ways with the national team after the 2014 Olympics and founded a bridge development program, the WinSport Junior Cross-Country Ski Team, to prepare junior skiers for senior-level racing.
A year and a half later, in October 2015, de Nys accepted a new job as high-performance director for Biathlon Canada, replacing Chris Lindsay (who currently works as a high-performance advisor for Own the Podium).
De Nys spent two winters with Biathlon Canada, but less than week after the conclusion of the 2016/2017 competition season, that tenure ended. The move from Biathlon Canada to discharge de Nys came less than a year before the 2018 Olympics, but after a season in which the Canadian biathlon team fell short of reaching the podium in a World Cup or World Championships race.
While several younger biathletes had major breakthroughs, including Megan Bankes and Leo Grandbois at Youth/Junior World Championships, and national-team members like Scott Gow, Christian Gow, Emma Lunder, and Julia Ransom recorded career-bests on the IBU World Cup circuit, several veteran members appeared to take a step back. Nathan Smith was out most of the season with a virus, and Rosanna Crawford and Brendan Green struggled to return to their competitive form.
Biathlon Canada General Manager Andy Holmwood told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that the decision was not performance related. He explained that Biathlon Canada expected to have the position filled by May 1. A job posting on its website indicated that applications would be accepted through May 7.
In an email to FasterSkier, Holmwood wrote that the new high-performance director will take over a program with plans leading up to and through the PyeongChang Winter Games. He explained that he hoped to fill the position as soon as is “feasible.”
Other than to “confirm we’ve recently parted ways with Eric de Nys and wish him the best of success in future endeavours, Biathlon Canada has no comment on the situation,” Holmwood wrote.
De Nys declined to comment specifically on the matter as well, telling FasterSkier on the phone that, as far as he knew, the decision was not performance related. He added that he had enjoyed working with both CCC and Biathlon Canada and was remaining positive as he looked ahead.
“One door closes and multiple open,” de Nys said of his plans moving forward. “I just hope the best for the athletes.”
After spending more than a decade of his career in skiing, he suspected he will remain involved in the sport in the future — even as a volunteer — although this year may signal a break.
“I’m not sure at what level yet, but I will be helping out at the club level or something like that,” de Nys said. “Maybe volunteering, but I do think I will step away from sport for at least year, maybe forever. I don’t know.”
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.