Loaded with many of Canada’s top ski prospects, there have been many days in the Alberta World Cup Academy history where the team has utterly dominated the field, filling the team van with medals and flowers.
Then, there are the tough days. The character building butt kicking required to learn there is no easy way to the top. Sunday in Silverstar was one of those days.
Competing against a deep field in the distance races, the AWCA athletes were nowhere near the Silverstar podium. AWCA alumnus Russell Kennedy was the top Canadian in the 15 km skate race, where he was ninth. Stewart-Jones was the top current AWCA athlete, finishing 21st in the open men’s category. Bouffard-Nesbitt was 12th in the open women’s 10 km skate.
“Today was rough. We got beat up. Having the Americans there was a reminder of how far we have to go. Even though we’ve had some bright spots on the World Cup, we don’t have the depth when you line us up with the Americans,” Jeffries said.
“I felt a little crushed from yesterday’s efforts. We Canadians got our butts kicked by the Americans today, which I think is a great thing. We race to be challenged, and the Americans sure gave us that challenge today. I was more than happy to be racing such a deep field,” said Bouffard-Nesbitt.
The defeat will only serve to improve the team and skiing in Canada, Jeffries said, as it removes any illusion that they must do more to catch the Americans.
“It is what we need. When you don’t have other countries there to race against, you enable yourself to think what you do is good because you win. But you really have no idea because it’s your own back yard. You have to look at the real world,” Jeffries said.
Team morale was down after Sunday’s race, but Jeffries was quick to point out it’s a process, and one race doesn’t make a season, pointing to Beatty and Nishikawa’s battles on the World Cup.
“The biggest part of my job right now is managing moods and expectations. Right now, there are more lows than highs in December. I have to remind the athletes and myself too, you want to see success all the time, but that’s not how it works,” Jeffries said. “We will touch base, regroup and put it in perspective and they will bounce back in a couple days and get back on track. A day like Sunday hits me as hard as it does the athletes. I hold us to a high standard. We will make some small tweaks, pull back on the volume and prepare for the next Noram.”
The U25 athletes are now off to Rossland next weekend for the next races, while the U21 group is back in the Bow Valley for a mini-training camp in Lake Louise.