CANMORE – Alberta’s best up-and-comer cross-country skiers (finally) have a date with international competition.
Nordiq Alberta is sending ten U20 athletes, mostly from Canmore, from the provincial ski team to race at the Planica Slovenia Alpen Cup, and the Swiss Cup in Klosters, Switzerland from Feb. 1-14 following two years removed from international racing.
“Part of our agenda is to provide that international race experience as part of the long-term development for the athletes,” said Ivan Babikov, Nordiq Alberta’s provincial coach and sport development director.
“For some of them, it’s their first time on this international trip.”
Racers going from the Canmore Nordic Ski Club are Tabitha Williams, Sabine Comeau, Sophia Wilson, Luke Fricker, Micah Steinberg, Seb Parent, Owen Pimm, and Theo Fradette.
Rocky Mountain Racers Sophia Marshall and Camrose Nordic Ski Club’s Natalie Thain also qualified.
All athletes met the criteria to travel to Europe during the Olympic Trials earlier this month at the Canmore Nordic Centre. It’s the first time in two years Nordiq Alberta is sending the group of teen skiers on a European tour due to the pandemic.
Babikov said the troubled times have been tough to hang on to athletes.
"That’s what we’ve seen with COVID. It’s tough, mentally when you have no season and nothing to train for there’s lots of kids dropping out or kind of putting a pause on the sport and moving on," he said.
He added that he's unsure what to expect out of the group due to the lack of international challenges since 2020, but being competitive isn't going to be an issue.
“Gauging by some of the results these kids showed at trials, we are aiming for pretty high,” said Babikov. “I would be surprised if we came back from this without any podiums. Some of the boys are really strong and some of the girls as well.”
Alain Parent, program director of Canmore Nordic Ski Club, said the athletes headed overseas are the next generation of Canadian skiers who one day could be fighting for national team and Olympic spots.
“They’ve been building the base now for a year-and-a-half and I've been quite impressed with them and many of the athletes that are sticking with the sport and they want to excel at this sport," said Parent. "They put in a big year of training last year without races to motivate them."