Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - Perspective
World Junior Team Update

- By: Sean Crooks

I'm sure anyone who has been following World Junior results this week has noticed Canada's climb in the ranks on sprint day. That's right, Canada rocks house in sprints. With 4 top 30 results in one day the team atmosphere is definitely more positive and upbeat. Although we aren't bringing home the hardware, anyone on the course yesterday will tell you that Canada had the loudest, most abundant cheering squad as Chandra raced the heats. It was pretty exciting to see her up there fighting for second place in her heat. There were some pretty crazy races yesterday, I almost think we were luckier to watch from the sided and pick up some tips from the worlds fastest junior sprinters. Seeing different strategies and pretty insane tempos showed me that at least two things are needed to get to the top: aggressiveness and speedy recovery.

Anyone who has ever been in a sprint race knows that if four relatively close guys or girls step to the line, the most aggressive will win. Now don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean tripping or breaking equipment. I wouldn't know anything about that. What I saw yesterday was racers using aggressiveness to perform their strategy. Usually this occurs right off the start by the fastest sprinter taking and holding the lead. However, if things don't work out at the start, the fastest sprinters crack out plan B. Yesterday's course had a perfect setup for position changes. The final hill was very wide, allowing plenty of room to pass or fall behind. Many positions ware changed on that hill. If Plan B failed, some people used the flat stadium to make their break. I guess that would be called plan C. Stadium passes are not easy and use up lots of energy making the next heat extra hard.

Another area of aggressiveness was shown after a fall. Watching Canadian national sprints in previous years I have noticed people fall, get behind the leaders, then throw in the towel. This was not the case yesterday. We witnessed an ultimate comeback from a Russian skier who fell twice on the course. By the final hill he was way back, we all thought it was over for this guy. But it wasn't, he came back with a vengeance and passed two skiers in the stadium. It was an awesome comeback and just showed how aggressive these sprinters were.

The second way to victory in the sprints is efficient recovery. Due to the fact that sprints are so new in the ski world, I don't think there are many methods to really speed recovery in the approx. 20 minutes we have between heats. Personally I rely on light skiing and sports drinks to recover. I have tried protein drink, however this could cause stomach cramps during the race. In a few cases it was very obvious recovery time played a role in the final results. A certain US skier qualified very high, however as the heats progressed it became very apparent he was not recovering as fast as the others. He dropped down the ranks a bit, however still finished a very respectable 8th. I'm sure there were many other cases of inefficient recovery yesterday and on any sprint day. The only remedy that I can see for this is altered training for fast recovery. I can't see there being some miracle cure to clearing lactate in 20 minutes. That's legal anyway.

Yesterday's sprint events were very exciting to watch for all of us. In the excitement I'm sure I wasn't the only one who saw the people with aggressive strategy and efficient recovery on the podium. Speaking of the podium, with results like yesterday, maybe it's realistic to say Canada may be there, sooner rather than later.


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