• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Year Long Para-Nordic Journey

      April 26, 2011

      In March 2010, Manitoba became aware of the power of Paralympics through the inspiring performances of our visually impaired, sit-ski and standing para-athletes as they took on the world.  The timing was ripe as Sport Manitoba was in the final year of preparing its Cross Country Ski team for Canada Winter Games 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


      For the first time, Cross Country skiing was to be an integrated competition, with each province allocated three Para-Nordic athletes at the games.  Through the summer of 2010 a search was on for coaches and athletes interested in this exciting opportunity.  We had heard from Jeff Whiting that there were interested athletes and that gave us a place to start.  Mary Montgomery had been involved in the local ski community in grass roots coaching and as an Occupational Therapist she had contacts with people who were interested in pursuing sport programs as part of a rehabilitation process. Mary passed along her coaching responsibilities for The Games to Megan Carter (Mary was preparing to bring a brand new cross country skier into the world during The Games).


      Initially we had a few names to work with, but no equipment, experience, or snow.  Being Manitoba, the snow issue was resolved in early November, and through grants from Cross Country Canada we were able to purchase our first sit-ski.  By early December we had identified a male standing Cross Country skier and two female sit-skiers, but located across a spread of approximately 450 km, so direct coaching and personal contact became the next challenge.  With the assistance of Ken Friesen our Brandon athlete had a coach, Ursula Wehner was able to assist our Kenora athlete and Megan covered Winnipeg, with the on-going assistance of Mary Montgomery.  By Games time we were able to field a team of two athletes who both represented Manitoba very proudly.


      The greatest benefit of this year long process has been the connections we have been able to build.  Initially it was the invitation to participate in the monthly teleconferences, to become familiar with the national support and planning group. This provided the guidance to begin our program and through the kindness of British Columbia provided the first training camp for one of our athletes in Vernon.  As we prepared to send athletes to their first ever competition, we had no idea what to expect.  We sought help on the field of competition from other teams and were welcomed into the Para-Nordic community by coaches, wax techs and athletes sharing their wisdom freely with us. 


      Through the Canada Winter Games we have been able to launch our Para-Nordic program, and with the success of Slade Doyle, winning three gold medals we have created an expectation to follow up with a stronger program and team to recruit more athletes and coaches in the future.


      Slade Doyle (won 3 gold medals at the CWG) Jamie Triskle on course at the CWG
      Lou Gibson assists Jamie at the CWG

       *Photo credits: Dave Benson