Sunday, August 22, 2004 - Athlete Perspective
Haywood Report: Mustering Some Speed

By: Gord Jewett

There are a lot of places in the world to get on snow during the summer training months, and although I havenít sampled them all I doubt that any can match New Zealandís SnowFarm. The Canadian Team usually spends a few days each month on snow at the Haig Glacier, but this year some of us have been fortunate enough to have a three-week training camp down under.

Although conditions are usually quite good on our local glacier, it canít compare to the mid-winter skiing weíve been enjoying here. The first two weeks we were here there were quite a few severe storms that dumped several feet of snow on us. Although the high winds and drifting snow made for some difficult days of training, when things cleared up this week we were left with incredible conditions and perfect tracks every day. Not only does that make hard training mentally easier, it is also ideal for working on technique.

Our camp comes to an end early next week, but today we had the chance to test out our form in the 42km Merino Muster loppet. It was a showdown between the US and Canadian teams, and with one win apiece it has to be considered a draw. The muster is a fun event, and this year being scheduled the week before the Australian Kangaroo Hoppet made for a slightly larger field than usual. Ski races in New Zealand donít draw thousands of skiers, but 250 people did toe the line for distances of 7, 21 and 42km.

In the womenís race Sara Renner was a dominant force, taking off from the start and never looking back. Sara actually latched on to the back of the lead menís pack for a few kilometers and left everyone else in her dust. At the end of the 21km race Sara was a substantial three and a half minutes ahead of American Rebecca Dussault. In the menís race, the Americanís took the win but our Canadian Team definitely had the edge when it came to depth. US Team skier Andrew Johnson was very strong and skied away from the field after about 14km to win the 42km race by 30 seconds ahead of Devon Kershaw. However, we were proud of our performance as we then swept the 2nd through 8th positions, putting 8 men in the top 10. The depth of our young menís team is definitely an edge that we are looking to capitalize on in the coming years.

One of our biggest team goals for both the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics is to have a strong relay team that can compete for the podium in Vancouver. Although the relay team is only made up of four skiers, it will take many more than that to get onto the podium. Right now there are 7 to 10 men in Canada capable of skiing at a very high international level, and weíll count on this in the coming years. Not only are we able to select our relay teams from a group of many strong men, we are also able to replace any sick or unhealthy athletes at the last minute without loosing any strength or speed. In 2003 a Globe and Mail columnist referred to the Canadian menís team as ďthe worldís most anonymous cross country ski team.Ē That is not a reference we expect to hear often in the coming 6 years.

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Source: Cross Country Canada

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