Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - Athlete Perspective
Gordís Ski Newsletter Vol 6, No 8: The Top Step

By: Gord Jewett

2174 days, 3198 hours of training, 1 back surgery, 374 hours of physiotherapy. It seems like an eternity since I last won a distance ski race, but that changed on Sunday when I won my first race since the Canadian junior championships in 1998. Without question, it was worth every second of the wait.

When I crossed the line on Sunday to win the Swiss Cup 15km mass start skate race in Marbach, Switzerland with my arms in the air, it was with a feeling that I have dreamed of for every one of those 2174 days. It wasnít a World Cup, Olympic or World Championship race, but winning is winning and finally getting the monkey off my back and claiming a race as a senior has been wonderful. I have won sprint races over the past few years, but winning a distance race is a special thing that means more to me than any sprint. When I crossed the line and told the coaches, Mike Cavaliere and Eric DeNys, that it was my first distance win as a senior they didnít believe me. You would think I would have won some little local race at some point in the past 6 years but the truth is I havenít.

Gordon Jewett and Dan Roycroft climbed the podium together after the 15km mass start skate race in Marbach, Switzerland.

Racing got underway on Saturday at the Swiss Cup in Marbach, Switzerland with sprints. I was pretty keen for a good result as I had sprinted well in Capracotta the previous weekend, but to be honest I wasnít feeling to optimistic. My legs had felt heavy and lethargic from travel during the week and I couldnít shake that feeling in the warm-up. I was surprised to have some speed in my legs during qualifying and put down the second fastest time of the day on the course, just over a second behind a Norwegian that qualified on top. I usually start to feel better after the hard qualifying effort and I breezed through the quarter and semi final rounds without much difficulty. I met the same Norwegian and two Swiss skiers in the final and two of them were just too quick for me. It was a tough course to pass on and after a sluggish start I didnít have what was need to move up for third, and I had to settle for the bottom step on the podium behind the winning Norwegian and one of the Swiss skiers. The two skiers ahead of me are both sprint specialists who have spent some time on the World Cup circuit this year, so although I was a bit disappointed with 3rd I was encouraged that I have the speed to compete at the international sprinting level. Chandra Crawford won the womenís sprint and we had 7 Canadian men and women in the top 8, so almost half of the finals were Canadian skiers. Not a bad day at all for the team.

When Sunday dawned I felt even worse than on Saturday morning, not nearly as prepared for the 15km skate race as I should have been. It was the sixth race in 9 days and the fatigue of racing and traveling was starting to catch up with me. I was starting in the second row in the mass start line up as I was ranked 11th of the men starting the race. I was thinking before the start that a top 5 result would be a good day all things considered. The pace was not fast for most of the race, but the lead group was so large that it made positioning a constant battle. On each hill it was necessary to battle towards the front of the group or get passed by 5 skiers doing the same thing from behind. It made for some aggressive and frustrating skiing, but by the third lap of 5km I was starting to feel some snap return to my legs. My teammates Dan Roycroft and Adam Kates were still with me in the lead group and we all started to move up towards the front in preparation for the finish. By this point I had upgraded my expectations for the race and I wanted nothing short of the win, knowing that I should be at least as fast as the others in the large lead group over the final kilometer. I entered the final climb in 7th position and I immediately started charging towards the front, I knew that going over the top of the climb I had to be in the front three positions to have a chance at the win. I ended up moving into second position behind my teammate Dan Roycroft and I followed him closely down the final downhill trying to get a slingshot out of his draft. At the bottom of the climb there was about 800 meters remaining and I just put my head down and sprinted as hard as I could. In the final 50 meters when I realized that nobody was going to come around me I could hardly believe that I was finally going to win. It turned out that my speed in the finale was unmatched by the rest of the field and I ended up winning by a comfortable 4 second margin. To make the day even sweeter Dan crossed the line in 3rd and Adam in 6th, showing the Swiss that Canadians can ski! On top of that Chandra won the womenís race and Becky Laakso was 4th, so it was a great way to cap off the trip.

With a fresh dose of confidence I am now on the place back to Canada. I am flying from Frankfurt, Germany to Calgary and Iíll spend the next week at home recovering and preparing for the Canadian Championships in two weeks time in Charlo, New Brunswick. I am looking forward to a little break from racing before finishing the season on a high note, hopefully with a fresh national title or two.

Gordon Jewett
Flt AC845, Frankfurt to Calgary

Gordon would like to thank his sponsors:

Thank you also to:
James Coatsworth
Peter and Robin Jewett
George Kalmar
Michael and Brenda Jewett
Alan Gallie
Irving Wartsman
Jeffrey Wartsman
Jim Meekison
Harold Macklin
Albert Latner
Oscar Grubert

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