CANMORE, Alberta — One of the most accomplished head coaches in the history of the Canadian National Ski Team, Justin Wadsworth, will take a break from coaching following the Haywood Ski Nationals, Cross-Country Ski de Fond Canada announced on Monday.
Wadsworth made the announcement on the heels of the inaugural eight-race Ski Tour Canada where he guided 26 Canadian athletes to numerous personal best performances, including Alex Harvey’s fifth-place finish in the overall standings.
Wanting to spend more time with his wife, Beckie Scott, and their two young children, the rigors of year-round international travel and the time commitment required to properly lead a high-performance sport team led Wadsworth to make the decision.
“Beckie and I have dedicated nearly our entire lives almost exclusively to the sport of cross-country skiing – both as athletes and in coaching – but I feel now it is time to take a break, and concentrate my time on being a father and husband,” said Wadsworth. “Cross-country skiing is in our family’s blood, but at some point it is time to step away. I look forward to watching the team’s continued quest for the Olympic podium while spending some much-needed time at home.”
Taking the head coaching reigns in April 2010, Wadsworth guided Canada’s National Ski Team to historic results with a focus on providing new perspective in program-delivery and leadership of the National Ski Team’s most elite athletes.
He certainly achieved his mandate. Wadsworth’s breakthrough came at the 2011 World Championships while coaching Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey to a historic gold medal in the team sprint – the first Canadian males to ever medal at the premiere international cross-country skiing event outside the Olympics.
Working with training centre coaches across the country in alignment with the Canadian Sport Institutes, the trips to the podium continued for Canadian athletes over the next four years under Wadsworth’s leadership. Every member of the World Cup team between 2011-2014, including Kershaw, Harvey, Len Valjas, Ivan Babikov, Perianne Jones, Chandra Crawford, and Daria Gaiazova celebrated podium performances. Canada also had two athletes on the same podium on multiple occasions.
The highlight of his stint with the Canadian squad though may be leading Kershaw and Harvey to top-three finishes in the Overall World Cup standings – an accomplishment that was once unthinkable in Canada’s cross-country skiing circles.
“I was very fortunate to join a program that had a talented pool of athletes, a fantastic wax team, an established sport-science program, and experienced staff in place. No program is successful without all of these core pieces in place and I can’t thank the entire team enough for their support,” added Wadsworth, who has elected to take time to figure out what’s next for his career.
“My goal was always to try and build on that strong foundation that was in place. There are highs and lows in any journey, but I believe I can leave having said that, as a team, we accomplished our goals to provide athletes with the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada will immediately begin an extensive search to fill the hole in its coaching structure.
“This is an unfortunate day for our sport in Canada, but Justin has been relentless in his pursuit of excellence. He has raised the bar, and allowed Canadian cross-country ski athletes to believe they too can be World Champions,” said Tom Holland, high-performance director Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada. “His unprecedented results speak for themselves, but what I’m almost most proud of during Justin’s tenure, was his ability to ensure the alignment of the National Ski Team and National Training Centres to maximize the training environment with a collaborative approach – a strategy critical for the long-term success of our sport.”
An Olympic cross-country skier himself, Wadsworth has been part of the high-performance system in both Canada and the United States for more than 25 years.
He will bid farewell to the national program in Whitehorse where he will lead the elite squad one final time at the Haywood Ski Nationals, March 19-26.