Thursday, December 6, 2007 - Canadian Athletes
Athlete Excerpts: Devon Kershaw

Kershaw's Korner: Kuusamo

Whoa! Iíve dropped the ball with the update here. Training and basking in the central European sun here in Switzerland has changed my priorities slightly, and Kuusamo and the four dark weeks of Scandinavia seem a distant nightmare. That said, Kuusamo needs to be discussed, so read on!  

We were greeted with a giant sign reading, ďThe gateway to Lapland,Ē in the Kuusamo airport upon our arrival after our 1000km + voyage back up north from Norway. I donít understand why anyone in their right mind would want to go to Lapland in the winter, and the sign seemed a little too overzealous in itís promised excitement one could expect there. It was week four of Scando-life, and thank god I saw the sun for a day and a half in Beitostolen because without it Iím not sure I could have handled another week of Finnish ice-fog.

My memories of Kuusamo consist mainly of horrendous food, strange accommodations, lack of snow, very low cloud, ice-fog and rain storms. To say I was thrilled to be back would be a stretch. Itís dark, weird and not exactly my number one destination. As we drove the 20min from Kuusamo to Ruka (the ďresortĒ that the races are held at), my stomach was awash in nerves; the Omena (our digs last year) still too fresh in my mind. As we bombed through the turn that would have deposited us back there, it seemed as though I had become flooded in sunlight and surrounded with happy music. Our good Scando luck continued on! Whereas last season we were a 15min bus ride away from the booming metropolis of Ruka, this year, equipped with personal saunas in every small apartment, our accommodations were a 5 minute walk from internet, dinner and a 10 minutes away from the race site. There was a plethora of snow, and the 40 minute long training track started right from our doors! Aside from a healthy dose of ice-fog, things were looking up!  

Settling into my now-familiar Lapland surroundings, I proceeded to prep for the upcoming races. I had planned for the week leading up to the races to be slightly lower on hours (13hrs) to give my body a chance to recover slightly after a relatively tough four week cycle completed. Testing skis was straightforward because of the cold hard conditions, and my intensities were feeling good. Everything seemed on track for a good weekend of racing.

Saturdayís 1.2km sprint was first up. It was the same track as last year, but skied totally differently, since last year it was pouring rain and +6, and this year was ice-foggy and -6. I was a little apprehensive all week for a few reasons, and my confidence wasnít great early in the week for this one. Last season I barely scrapped in, qualifying 28th, and I hadnít been feeling very speedy in sprint qualifiers this season. I battled through my demons throughout the week and came into that race feeling relaxed and ready to go. As the qualifier came and went, the result was not something I had expected. Not qualifying was something I hadnít expected, and when I saw my name next to a disappointing 38th  place finish I was quite upset. I had been a shade under a second from qualifying, another frustrating stat. It was tough on me because I thought I did a really good job turning around my nerves and felt mentally prepared for the effort. I had made a few small tactical errors (cutting one corner way too tight, and have slight transitional problems (diagonalling a bit too long instead of kick dp in one section)) but didnít think that would be the difference. Turns out it was and I ended up sitting in my room watching the rounds unfold through the glare of a television screen. I was bummed for the rest of the day, I learnt from the tough day, and realized something profound (that I had known for quite some time, but seem to forget every time I enter a sprint competition): If you want to be the best sprinter in the world, you really have to throw everything into just sprinting, and our team just isnít doing that. Until we do, we will continue to be inconsistent in those events at the World Cup level. The Swedes, and Norwegians dominate because they prepare the best. Maybe we can beat them on one day a year and get on the podium (like I have the past two seasons), but to be consistently World Class is a totally different deal...

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