More than 500 cross-country skiers and coaches from across Western Canada and Washington state are in the Okanagan for this weekend’s Western Canadian championships.
The races are taking place at the Telemark Nordic Club, near West Kelowna. Racing began Friday and wraps up Sunday. Saturday’s events feature mass-start distances. Action began at 9 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. For Sunday, relay races are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Race secretary Jill Stamp says this is the highest level domestic race series in Canada. The event does have elite competitors, but is primarily a developmental gathering for junior cross-country skiers.
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“There’s three days of racing,” said Stamp. “There’s a sprint, a mass start classic race [on Saturday] and Sunday is relays.”
Gareth Williams is an elite-level nordic skier. For him, the Westerns are a homecoming.
“I’ve basicaly lived here my whole life,” said Williams, a member of the senior national ski team. “And I’ve been skiing here since I was two.”
While Williams has already made the jump to the national level, he knows this is a really big weekend for junior athletes.
However, he adds that “it’s just nice to win a race at home.”
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For Nordic skiing, selecting the right wax is of utmost important. Picking the right one for the day’s conditions might be the difference between earning a top-three finish or finishing outside the medals.
“Without the right wax, you cannot win a race,” said Williams. “Most of the effort comes from the athlete, but wax is just something that allows the athlete to reach the top of the podium.”
For more about the event, visit the Telemark Nordic Club.