Transatlanticism á la Nordic Combined - Taking stock in Canada

20 September 2012 19:56
Team CAN
Team CAN -

"Taking stock" is back! In our series, we started to take a look at different teams in the world of Nordic Combined last autumn. Before this winter starts, we like continue offering insights into teams which will not always be in focus once the World Cup starts again.

For the first edition of the season 2012/13, we will have a look over the Atlantic ocean to the young team from Canada. Like their transatlantic neighbours from the US or also the Japanese, the Canadian team's main challenge is living quite far away from all the competition sites, so often, competing in the World or Continental Cup means being away from home for long stretches of time.

Regarding their plans for the upcoming winter season, new head coach Max Thompson explains: "With us having a competition every weekend and not having the ability to go home between competitions we've decided just to prepare for the middle part of the winter.  I will be bringing four athletes to the COC events in Park City and the best athlete will attend the World Cups in January/February. The rest of the younger team has events in the USA throughout the winter and hopefully I'll be bringing two athletes to the World Juniors in Liberec.  We'll see what happens for World Championships once the winter season starts."

Unique training situation in Canada

The training situation in Canada differs vastly from the organisation in the "bigger" countries: In Canada, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined work together as one group and there's only one active ski club with Nordic Combined activity which is located in Calgary. Ted Bafia is the senior coach who overlooks all training there. He is also acting as home coach for the national team members as well as coaching the junior skiers. Gregor Linsig is working as head coach for the ladies and men Ski Jumping team. Max Thompson took over the role as Nordic Combined head coach and is also coaching a group of athletes training for both sports at the junior level.

On the whole, it's three main coaches and two assistant coaches who look after the national teams and about 20 juniors aged 12-16 in Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined. "In whole country we only have around 40 athletes aged 6 and older training for Ski Jumping or Nordic Combined.  Currently over half of them are girls. When we are traveling, it is just a coach without a service team", Max Thompson sums up.

In the public perception of his home country, Nordic Combined does not feature at all, despite the Vancouver Olympics of 2010. "I don't think it's possible to be much smaller, to be honest", Thompson admits.  "The jumps are in in a city of over 1 million people and 999.000 of them probably don't know what the sport is.  Even in the USA with Bill Demong winning the Vancouver Olympics the sport didn't gain much popularity on this continent."

Thompson's young team currently consists of five athletes, Nathaniel Mah, Rogan Reid, Jean Charl Pretorius, Joshua Maurer and Matthew Soukup, who are all attending the sports school located in Calgary, and his top athlete, Wesley Savill, who spends the majority of his time training with the US team in Park City, Utah.

Sochi as the number one priority

"I have a lot of athletes at different levels, so the goals are all different", Thompson, who became head coach of the Nordic Combined team this last spring, says about his coaching philosophy. "The number one priority is to get our top athletes qualified to ski Sochi but I also have to keep in mind the development of our younger skiers." As a key area which needs work, Thompson points out the training-intensive cross-country part. "Most athletes I have go to school, so working on a balanced life where they train early in the mornings and then in the afternoons while doing their study's takes a lot of commitment. But I feel like I have a group who is up to the challenge."

Especially his top athlete Wesley Savill shows promising signs towards Sochi: "He's currently our only athlete with the ability to ski at the World Class level but still lacks some confidence on the jump hill. He has the ability to get the jumping onto World Cup standards, so we're going to focus on this  during the winter season."

To work on his team's ski jumping shape, Thompson and his athletes spent the summer in Europe, training in Val di Fiemme, Oberstdorf, Stams, Innsbruck, Bischofshofen and Klingenthal and attending competitions in Villach and during the Summer Grand Prix. "For the young guys, it was a really cool experience getting to jump the "4 hills". The idea of the trip was to get used to switching hills quickly and to gain more experience jumping on K120 + sized hills. We had a fantastic summer!"

If you would like to follow the Canadian Nordic Combined team on facebook, you can do it here