By: Peter Graves
The famed Canmore Nordic Center, the venue of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games Nordic events, and home to countless World Cups recently played host to yet another blockbuster event, when they welcomed the world for an IPC cross-country and biathlon World Cup. The setting is breathtaking, the competition even more so.
Augusto “Goose” Perez spoke for everyone noting just how inspiring it was to compete and the fabled venue of Canmore, saying..”Canmore was an amazing experience, The city of Canmore is absolutely beautiful, and to be able to race at this Olympic venue was a dream and the work put forth by the organizers and the volunteers was phenomenal. Having the chance to compete against the best in the world is not at the reach of just anyone, I was humbled by it, and it was also a great chance to put to the test all the work I did with CXC.”
More than 110 athletes representing 12 nations competed in six World Cup events, marking a historic first for Canmore. CXC had three Paralympic athletes that were part of the US contingent of 15 athletes.
Team CXC skiers were lead by Travis Dodson and Aaron finishing 1.5 seconds apart in the 10km event in 17th and 18th position respectively, placing just behind star member of the national team Andy Soule and Sean Halstead. CXC member Augusto Perez met the Paralympic standard of 130% of the winner’s time, finishing in 20th.
The next event was the 750m sprint race where the CXC trio had their best collective performances with Pike narrowly missed qualifying for the semis by less than two seconds finishing 14th followed by Dodson and Perez.
Pike followed up that impressive finish with a personal best 12th place even outperforming famed Dan Cnossen and was just behind Sean Halstead who was the U.S.’s top performer in Sochi last spring placing 4th.
Coach Rob Rosser picks up the biathlon storyline.
“Dodson lead the way for the CXC trio in the first of 3 biathlon races shooting clean, a perfect 10 for 10 for 13th place behind Cnossen and Soule in 9th and 11th respectively both of whom shot clean as well. Pike and Perez struggled on the range finishing 17th and 18th
“Dodson lead the trio in the final long 15km biathlon event finishing 15th hitting 14/20 followed by Pike and Perez in 16th & 17th. This final race of the World Cup ended on another positive result posted by 2010 Bronze Medalist Paralympian Andy Soule who hit 19/20 in windy conditions combined with an exceptional performance on the sit ski finishing in fifth place just 34 seconds from the podium. This was quite impressive amongst a very strong field of Russians vying for their selection to the Russian Paralympic Team which will play host to the world in Sochi 2 months from now”, Roser explained.
We also caught up with Augusto Perez, who made it clear just how important CXC’s commitment to adaptive sports is….”The first thing I want to do is thank Yuri, CXC and CXC’s entire staff for their support, without them I would not heave been able to keep skiing this season and to continue my work towards my dream of competing in Sochi. Dealing with my cancer and its economic cost had closed my chances to continue training towards Sochi. When Yuri called and asked me if I wanted to train with them and to become a mentor to younger disabled kids, I was packing my bags before I hung up the phone. CXC was a light of hope during a rough time.”
Although the TEAM USA squad won’t be selected for Sochi until Jan 31st, or so, many CXC athletes have a real chance to be part of the Paralympic lineup. That’s great news.
We asked the USA’s John Farra, to give us his thoughts about some of those athletes.
ON AARON PIKE
“Aaron Pike – sitting athlete – was in London as a Wheel Chair racing athlete and came to a camp last fall to try out Nordic. In short order he picked up the sport, came to Nationals and qualified for his first world Cup in Cable with just 10 +- days of skiing under his belt. He is VERY strong and incredibly fit… he hit our National Team standard at that first World Cup and continues to improve. “
ON TRAVIS DODSON
“Dodson – sitting athlete – double leg amputee – Is a veteran that Rob Rosser introduced to the sport a few years ago, and he is also very competitive in Wheel Chair racing, but has turned his attention to Nordic with a big focus this winter with the goal to maximize his performances in Sochi,” said Farra.
ON JOHN OMAN
“John Oman – Is a standing athlete with one arm, and is a great guy and could well be a wonderful part of our Sochi Team,” said Farra.
Oman was filled with praise for CXC for the experienced he enjoyed in Canmore, saying…”I would never have had such an amazing experience at the World Cup if it weren’t for the dedication and passion of the CXC Team. I am excited to pay it forward—and pay it back—by providing as much support as I can in the future to CXC and all who the team serves and represents.” He also noted how well he was prepared prior to leaving for Canada explaining…”When Yuri (Gusev) asked me if there was anything that I needed from him before I left. My answer was a simple “no”, because the CXC team had spent the past year preparing me with equipment, hours and hours of coaching, and most importantly, a network of people (coaches, racers, and recreational skiers) that had prepared me for this world-class event.
Following the events we caught up with John Farra, the USA’s High Performance Director for it’s Para Squad and got some really promising observations about a program that has come a long way thus far. “We have come a long way as a program, we had 6 athletes in Vancouver and now we expect to have 17 athletes in Sochi. I am thrilled with how many new athletes we have seen come into our sports of XC and Biathlon and excited to see how they all perform in Sochi. Our trip to Canmore was an important trial run with a large staff of 14, and 19 athletes. We set a bunch of goals going into this event that were not based on athlete performance, but on staff performance… we wanted to make sure we were clicking on all cylinders and working in efficient/effective ways at a busy event just like we will have in Sochi. We leave Canmore feeling very good about our systems, the support we are offering the athletes and the skis we are putting under their feet or sit skis,” Farra explained.
“We are all excited by this as Sochi is coming up fast but as importantly we are inspired by the work of all of our athletes in the adaptive program, as they challenge each of us to do our best,” said CXC Executive Director Yuri Gusev.