Taking flight: Team Canada
As any sport, Nordic Combined is fraying a bit around the edges, with smaller nations coming in and going out, depending on the financial situations and availability of athletes. In the close-knit community of Nordic Combined, however, every absence is felt keenly and every new nation to enter the „family“ heartily welcome. This new weekly series is to focus on the smaller nations of the World Cup tour, their changing working conditions and an outlook into the future.
One of the nations on the edge is Team Canada. Since the Olympics in Vancouver, the team has occasionally had athletes on start in major competitions as well as the Continental Cup but in recent years, it had been quiet around one of the few overseas nations of the sport. With the advent of the 2015/16 season, however, things are beginning to move forward again.
A new coach, Finn Jouni Kähkönen, joined the team and now, the basic structure is set up: four motivated athletes, new sponsors and a new big goal: to take part at the team event at World Championships in Lahti in 2017 will a full team of four athletes, a feat that has never happened before in Canadian history.
Part of this new development are Rogan Reid, Matthew Polz, Wesley Savill and Nathaniel Mah who embarked on a first training camp together with Kahkonen in Finland during the summer of 2015.
Mah remembers the beginning of the cooperation: „Instead of giving up on any sort of plans like I believe most of us did, Jouni came up with a plan, and presented it to the four of us: We would still be the Canadian Nordic Combined team but we would use Finnish training methods, Finnish sponsors, Finnish technology, and most importantly a Finnish coach. In Finland, Nordic Combined is a well known sport making finding support much easier. So now with thanks from Luhta, Start, First Beat, Top line media, and Fazer the sponsor problem was taken care of.“
With the new setup also came new ideas and a new coaching philosophy. Long-term training plans, use of state-of-the-art analysis technologies, a careful monitoring of the athletes’ data and an emphasis on team-building were introduced and will hopefully form the team into a competitive union in time for Lahti 2017.
For the upcoming winter, the first step will be the Continental Cup. All Canadians are planning to start at the two American venues of Parc City and Lake Placid and from then on, the two strongest athletes will travel with the Continental Cup and live in Lahti in between competition weekends. The other two athletes will train in Calgary and occasionally come to Europe for training and competition.
Due to still being handicapped by a strong concussion from the spring 2014, Nathaniel Mah could still not train fully but matching the new professionalism on the team but has risen to the occasion to take care of a new area responsibilities: „If we weren’t training, we were doing something related to media or sponsors. For me it consisted of multiple TV, radio, and written interviews, acting as a kind of „spokesperson“ for the team. Lots of shaking hands and meeting new people that all came to support our team. We do realize the importance of media and showing how thankful we are that all these people that barely know us are willing to come and support us.“