Have you been following what is happening this week at Whistler Olympic Park? It’s the first National Championships since the start of the pandemic, and Manitoba athletes have been flying!
Representing Manitoba are 10 athletes:
From Boundary Trails Nordic: William Vanden Berg, Hezekiah Hoeppner, Mia Sawatsky , Ben and Naomi Weins
Downtown Nordic: Hannah Wintoniw and Imogen Nadlersmith
Red River Nordic: Luke Enns
Para Nordic: Jesse Bachinsky (Kenora Nordic) and guide Levi Nadlersmith – both members of Nordiq Canada’s Para Nordic Development Team.
Supporting coaches and wax techs are Pauline Nadlersmith, Andrew Vanden Berg and Steven Wintoniw, and staff apprentice Cheryl Koop.
It is also exciting to see MB alumnus skier Conor McGovern posting some great results for Lakehead University in the Open and CCUNC men categories.
And just in case anyone recognized that voice, Downtown Nordic co-founder Steven Scoles is the commentator on the event live streaming!
Highlights of the first 4 days of competition include a 2nd place for William Vanden Berg on day 2 in the U18 boys classic 10 km race. Jesse Bachinsky and guide Levi Nadlersmith put together an exciting sprint race to finish on top on day 3.
And if you didn’t catch it, there were some spectacular classic sprint races on days 3 and 4 of the competition, with 4 Manitobans qualifying for heats and 3 moving up to semifinals! Congratulations to Downtown Nordic Imogen Nadlersmith (U20 quarterfinals), Boundary Trails athletes William Vanden Berg (U 18 9th) and Mia Sawatsky (U18 7th) and Red River Nordic skier Luke Enns (U16 10th). These junior fields are large, including over 80 skiers in each of U16 boys and girls, and U18 boys.
2 days of racing remain, with the mass start distance races wrapping up on Sunday March 27. Go Team Toba!
There were many tired smiles and sore necks on the return from the Western Canadian Championships in Red Deer, AB last weekend (Jan 28-30, 2022). Or there would have been sore necks if the medals given out weren’t made of wood…
Against the best skiers in western Canada, our Manitoba team brought home no fewer than 8 medals and an additional six top 10 finishes. Thank goodness the results were posted online because Imogen Nadlersmith (Downtown Nordic), William Vanden Berg (Boundary Trails), and Kate Sawatsky (Boundary Trails) would have otherwise taken the news of their performances to the grave.
Imogen opened the weekend in the U20 Women’s race on an icy course with a gold in the skate interval start event, followed by William Vanden Berg gliding into third in U18 Boys, and Kate Sawatsky dominating the U14 Girls in first. An exciting start to the weekend! Another thrilled team member, coach and wax tech Jeff McMillan, reveled in the athletes’ success on his ULLA glide wax.
Saturday was a highlight for many athletes as the traditional sprint race format was tossed aside in favour of a “Ladder” or “King’s Court” edition. After the interval start qualifiers, athletes were assigned to heats of 6 with other athletes closest to their speed from all genders and age categories (though divided by race distance). After each round of heats, the top two finishers joined the faster heat, the bottom two finishers joined the slower heat, and the middle two remained. The result was each round of heats being closer than the last, pushing athletes to the max for each of their four races. Each athlete had at least one tough race, but turned around and improved on their next try.
Imogen finished the long, exciting day with a bronze in the 1200m U20 Women. William Vanden Berg strategically landed himself in the fastest heat on the last round and also captured bronze in the U18 boys category. Kate Sawatsky faced off against teammate William Wintonwin in the last and most exciting heat of the U14 course, winning the heat and placing second overall in the U14 Girls.
There was much speculation over the fate of Sunday’s race due to the poor snow conditions, but race organizers and volunteers in Red Deer somehow found enough snow with over 350 volunteer hours to set a classic track. Wax extraordinaires Andrew Vanden Berg and Jeff McMillan accepted a few recruits (Pauline and Imogen Nadlersmith) to the waxing team to get klister on and off of race skis efficiently. William Vanden Berg had, in his modest words, “a pretty good race” but made every second count to pull out a first place finish. Kate Sawatsky, also modest in her evaluation of the race, added another silver medal to her quickly growing collection.
Through the weekend, both Mia Sawatsky (Boundary Trails, U18 Girls) and William Wintonwin (Downtown Nordic, U14 Boys) gave consistent top 10 finishes improving with each race. Mia went 7th in the skate, 6th in the sprint, and finished off with a 4th in the classic. William Wintonwi started with an 8th place in the skate, improving to 6th in the sprints, and finished again in 6th place in the classic race.
Other notable successes included learning to use a plunger, talking to Beckie Scott, handling pre-race nerves, finishing a race on iced up klister, battling back in the sprint heats after falls, cinnamon buns and muffins, and no Covid disruptions.
With the final ski race done, the group started the most important race of the weekend – the race to stay ahead of the Alberta Clipper. The athletes pulled off a one-hour turnaround time from returning home from the race to being packed, fed, house cleaned and in the vehicles for the ride home. Pauline may have even been impressed. Dry roads and diligent drivers got the group home safely on Monday afternoon, mere hours ahead of the blizzard of the winter.
~ Alex Loeppky (Millennial Ambassador/generational liaison)
Countdown to the Canmore 2021 World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup
The Season Opener to be held at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park will welcome the world’s best skiers from around the world to compete for 6 days in December 2021. Read the full press release.