Thursday, February 3, 2011

What a Trip!

Well, my first trip to Europe and first set of International races is now in the books. While I didn't really get to do much in the way of exploring cities and checking things out, I did get to ski at three different ski sites, and spend two weeks in two new countries, and it.. was.. awesome!

In my last few posts I talked about my experiences at the Scandic hotel in Finland and my journey to Otepaa, so I'll pick up from there. After my first race on the 26th, there were races everyday, alternating back and forth between Junior and U23 categories. Canada's first day of huge excitement and success came in the U23 mens 15km skate race, as Kevin Sandau raced his way to a 5th place finish. Us Juniors watched from our hotel, screaming at the TV as Kevin skied his final few kilometers to get his first ever top 5 finish at a World U23 Championship race. This result earned Kevin a spot on next years Canadian Senior Development team.

The next day was the Junior classic sprints. My qualifier was pretty disappointing as I broke a pole early on, so did not qualify for the heats. Sadly none of my other teammates managed to get through the qualifier either, with Andy being our top finisher in 31st spot (so close!). On the womens side, Heidi Widmer and Janelle Greer both managed to qualify for the heats, but were unable to advance past their quarterfinals.

The U23 sprints were the following day, and provided us spectators with some very exciting racing. On the womens side, Academy teammate Alysson Marshall managed to crack the top 12, getting her a spot on next years Canadian Senior Development Team. And on the mens side, Jess Cockney skied his way miraculously through the heats and found himself in the A Final! Qualifying in 30th spot (the last qualifying spot), he was able to ski his way to a comfortable 2nd place finish in his quarterfinal, which earned him a spot in the semis. And after finishing 5th in his semi, his luck kicked in big time. The other semi ended up being slower than his, and one of the Swedes who finished ahead of him ended up being disqualified. So after all was said and done, he managed to sneak his way into the last spot in the Final. He finished the day with an impressive 6th place, earning himself a spot on next years Senior Development Team as well.

The following day was the Junior Pursuits. Another disappointing race for me, but another experience in the bank. The top Canadian male of the day was Andy, finishing in 31st spot, and on the womens side, Annika Hicks finished as the top Canadian, also in 31st.

The next day was the final day of competition with the Junior Relays and the U23 pursuits. Our mens relay team managed to edge out the Americans and take 9th spot, while our womens team finished in 11th. The biggest excitement of this day however came in Mens U23 30km pursuit, as Canadian Olympian Alex Harvey was the top ranked skier in the field and looking for gold. And after 30km of racing, Alex out-sprinted Russia's Belov and took the win and got his first ever World Championships Gold medal. Watching Alex win this race was amazing to say the least. Getting to see the Canadian flag hoisted into the air and hearing our National anthem was possibly the most inspiring experience I have ever had.

Despite not having the results I was looking for, this trip was an incredible experience for me. In the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting back on what my goals have been over the years, and it’s hard to believe that at 19 years old, I have already achieved one of my lifetime goals of racing for Canada at the International level. It just goes to show that if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, as cliché as it sounds, anything is possible.

After we finished watching Alex's awards ceremony, we headed back to Helsinki where we spent the night before getting on the plane and starting the journey home. All in all, it was a 22 hour trip from Helsinki to Canmore, and I arrived home around 3:30am Wednesday morning. I will be spending 6 more days here, taking a short break before pressing on with the race season. I'll be heading to Ottawa next Wednesday, Feb. 9th for the Eastern Canadian Championships which will take place Feb. 11-13. I'll then head back to Penetang for a few days before getting back on a plane and flying out to Halifax to compete in the 2011 Canada Winter Games. This is by far the busiest race season I have had to date, and I'll still have another month of racing and traveling after Canada Winter Games, so it's safe to say that I am thrilled with how things are going this year!

I think that's all for now, I'm still a bit of a hurting unit from the jet lag, so I apologize if I left anything out. If anyone has any specific questions about my adventures, past, present or future, please don't hesitate to fire me an email!


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