Rossland cross-country skier Geoffrey Richards among eight Canadian junior competitors to compete in the World Championships in Turkey
Rossland native and cross-country skier Geoffrey Richards will join seven other junior athletes and eight under-23 athletes to represent Canada at the 2012 Junior and Under-23 World Championships in Erzurum, Turkey, on Feb. 19 to 26.
Cross Country Canada—the nation’s governing body of competitive cross-country skiing—named the 16 athletes following the selection trials at Whistler Olympic Park ten days ago. Richards is the only athlete to represent British Columbia: five come from the Yukon, five from Alberta, four from Quebec, and one from Ontario.
The Rossland Telegraph tracked down the rising star in Canmore last week where he and other young athletes were pounding through a dense schedule of gruelling races in the Western Canadian Championships. See the bottom of this article for the excellent results posted by Rossland skiers.
“After the past ten days in which we raced six days, I feel like my ski career has a lot of potential to continue along the path to my goal of skiing on the national team and skiing in the Olympics for Canada,” he said.
Richards began skiing when he was three years old, getting pulled by a pulk when he wasn’t tottering around on skis. He entered his first BC Cup race when he was five, and his training got serious when he turned 14 and took Chris Manhard as his coach.
“I’ve never really had specific role models. I look up to the top skiers in the world for how well they ski and how they can buckle down when the going gets tough,” Richards said.
Every year the Junior World Championships moves location, and this year the world’s best youth cross-country athletes will converge at 1800 metres elevation in the ancient city of Erzurum, known as a military stronghold from the days of Armenian kings right up to its Cold War role as a NATO airbase.
More recently, Erzurum has become known for its winter sports facilities, said to be the finest in Turkey. South of the city, the 3188 metre summit of Mt. Palandöken known as Büyük Ejder, the Great Dragon, is clearly visible from downtown.
“It’ll be higher then I’ve ever raced and right at the limit for FIS regulations,” Richards said. “We fly on the 11th and the races are the 21st to the 26th, so we have a week to acclimatize.”
Richards is excited by the opportunity to gain valuable international experience. “I’ve been working towards going to World Juniors since my first time racing at the trials four years ago,” he said. “This is my first time going to such a high level race in Europe.”
Although he moved to Whistler after graduating high school last year, he gives a lot of credit to his upbringing in Rossland.
“Living in Rossland for my last two years of high school was exactly what I needed to keep the skiing going with very little distraction and a great coach, [Chris Manhard, former coach for the Black Jack Junior Racers,] who I ended up following to Whistler,” he said. “The teachers at RSS support athletics and extracurricular endeavours, and do the best they can to support and work with students in athletics.”
Now Whistler is giving Richards what he needs to take his skiing career to the next level.
“Whistler is an amazing place to live,” he said. “The facilities we have access to are second to none. We live in townhouses together that are financially assisted, the snow comes high up early in the season and there’s never a problem with mid-season melt. We get so much snow that, for example, by the end of May last year we were skiing on 400 centimetres.”
“Summer training is awesome as well,” he continued. “We have a high-performance gym about 100 metres from our front door. We can roller ski on the valley trails around Whistler for hours without even skiing the same thing. We have a team van that we ride in every day to training.”
Beyond training, “Whistler life is awesome,” he said. “It’s a resort town so everyone is there to have a good time outdoors and that creates a perfect atmosphere to want to go out and train and have fun.”
When asked about hobbies, he allowed that there wasn’t much time for such things.
“Skiing has to be seen like a full time job,” he said. “Between training, eating properly, sleeping adequate amounts, stretching and post-work recovery and, of course, racing, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for other pursuits. But when I do, I enjoy downhill skiing and playing whiffle ball. One day I’d like to be a culinary chef.”
“Unfortunately the only downside to cross-country skiing at the level I’m at is that you live and breathe skiing, so you are left with one month off every year to make enough money to live for the other 11 months. This isn’t possible, so we are left to rely on sponsorships which, in BC especially, are very difficult to come by.”
Richards’ sponsors include local businesses Kootenay Nordic Sports and Teck, but also Bliz eyewear, OneWay, Auclair, and Fisher.
Tom Holland, high-performance director of Cross Country Canada (CCC), is pleased with the crop of young athletes Canada will send to Turkey next month.
“This is a young but experienced group of athletes have made huge progress racing both domestically on the Haywood NorAm circuit and internationally,” he said in a CCC press release. “The talent pool of young cross-country skiers continues to grow, and these athletes are well-prepared to achieve excellence in Turkey.”
In other nordic news, BC skiers won gold in 6 out of 10 categories in the recent Western Canadian Championships, held in Canmore, Alberta last weekend. Prominent among the winners were five skiers from Rossland’s Black Jack Junior Racers: Geoffrey Richards, Jill Reynolds, David Palmer, Shawn Degroot, and Daniel Merlo.
More detailed results are here: Day 1 Results
DAY #1 – Interval Start – Classic Technique
Austin Reith (Whistler Nordic Ski Club) – Midget Boys
Annika Richardson (Hollyburn Cross Country Ski Club) – Midget Girls
Megan Evans (Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club) – Juvenile Girls
Thomas Hardy (Larch Hills Ski Club) – Junior Boys
Brittany Evans (Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club) – Junior Girls
Geoffrey Richards (Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club) – Junior Men
Jill Reynolds (Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club) – Junior Girls
David Palmer (Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club) – Junior Men
Alysson Marshall (Larch Hills Ski Club) – Senior Women
Shawn Degroot (Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club) – Junior Boys
Daniel Merlo (Black Jack Cross Country Ski Club) – Midget Boys