• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Canadian Cross-country Ski Team Loses Pioneer

      June 18, 2010

      Dave Wood saw it all in his stewardship of the Canadian cross-country ski team, helping to guide the skiers from the depths of despair at the 1998 Nagano Games to the top of the podium at the next two Olympics.

      Wood announced this week he was resigning from the Canadian program, for which he’s served as head coach and team leader for more than a decade.

      “I’d say I’ve never worked with anyone in skiing that was as passionate, hard working and so completely consumed by our beautiful sport,” said Devon Kershaw, fifth in the men’s 50-kilometre race at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

      “I’ll never forget the time a few years back, when I was sick with a raging fever at 1a.m, and who do I call? Dave. Of course he answers and comes over to check on me, and offer me any help he can. . . . That’s dedication. That’s true belief and a deep caring for excellence.”

      Kershaw said Wood also took on the team’s battles on the road when they got the short end when it came to wax rooms, jury calls, accommodation and other matters.

      “Dave was always the first guy in there to take care of that stuff so we didn’t have to worry about it,” he said. “He was relentless in helping us in any way he could to succeed.”

      Wood took over as head coach in 1998 when the team appeared to have no hope. He had only one assistant, wax technician Yves Bilodeau, a former skier still with the team.

      “We didn’t have any money, we didn’t have any staff, it was basically Yves and I,” said Wood. “We (the team) just ground away, fought our way up the ladder as fast as we could. Along the way, there’s been some incredible days for the Canadian team.

      “Beckie (Scott), of course, was the start of it all. But all the girls we had from ’98 to ’02 were all instrumental in the team crawling out of the pits and getting back to some decent level.

      “In Vancouver, to have our men so solid was better than we ever dreamed. You always believe you can have one guy doing well, but some days we had all four doing well.”

      Scott won gold at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, Sara Renner captured a bronze for the country’s first medal at the world championships in 2005 and Chandra Crawford won Olympic gold in Turin in 2006 while Scott and Renner combined for a silver in the relay.

      It was reported on some cross-country skiing websites that tensions within the team led to Wood’s departure, but he said he’s simply taking advantage of an opportunity that opened up at a club in Rossland, B.C., where his partner Allison Brown lives.

      “It’s a change of pace and a chance to be with Allison more than a month a year,” he said.

      There certainly isn’t any bad blood between Cross Country Canada and Wood as they plan to use him on a contract basis, likely for such events as the Tour de Ski and world championships.

      “His leaving has nothing to do with Dave’s performance or the organization pushing him out,” said Davin MacIntosh, Cross Country Canada’s executive director. “We’d love to keep him.”