Cross-Country Canada had a great season 2011/12. Devon Kershaw finished in the second place in the Overall World Cup standing and Alex Harvey ended the season in 6th place. Youngster Len Valjas had a strong final part of the season therefore FIS Cross-Country News had to ask Canada's head coach Justin Wadsworth what's his season summary, plans for the training period and goals for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme 2013.
Q: Canadian team had the best season ever. What is your best and strongest memory?
Justin Wadsworth: For me it was the WC finals-when we planned for last season we really wanted to make sure we were ready for the finals. We had a great/fun training camp before the finals and that set the athletes to be ready to rock in Stockholm/Falun.
Q: Devon number 2 Overall, Alex 6, Lenny very strong in sprints and in Falun. Did you expect it tobefore the season?
J.W.: Actually top 3 overall was the goal, but I wasn't sure if it would be Devon or Alex or both-I really believed we would have somebody there though.
Q: When you started your job you said you were giving your team at least four years. You are now at the halfway point. What is your review of the first two years? Did everything go as you planned and hoped? Is there anything left on your agenda you want to focus more?
J.W.: So far so good. We've reached a lot of our team goals, but there are still some things in the next two years we want to improve. For starters, we would like to take our women's team to a new level. We have 3 very good strong skiers, but we'd like to have them ski more consistently through the season, and keep improving on the distance racing side as well. We've brought in some outside support to help us make sure we're doing all we can to keep the ladies moving up, so I'm really excited about that.
On the guys side, Tour de Ski podium and win is a big goal. The last two years we've been perfectly placed going into the last stage, but have had issues with the final climb, so that will change this year. We'd also like as a team to have a few medals at the WSC in Val di Fiemme, so we need to be smart on how the season is planned to give everyone the best shot at those goals.
Q: Len Valjas had a strong season both in the sprint and at the end also in distance. Is he a "result" of the sprint program you wanted to implement when you started your job? How is it working in general?
J.W.: Lenny's just a really talented athlete in all respects, and now he's had two solid years of training on the team. The first year for Lenny was tough at the camps trying to do the same hours as Devon, Alex and Ivan, but last year he managed much better and now can get through all the camps with the same load as the other guys. I also think just training with Devon, Alex and Ivan all the time has given Lenny a lot of confidence to know that he can move as fast(or faster) then the other guys in some sessions. We're really in a good spot with our men's team just feeding off each other, having fun and training hard and smart.
Q: On April 1 there was news, that USST and CCC merged. It was obviously a joke, but you seem to be excellent example how to develop skiing with almost no state support and limited money. Where is the key to success both in terms of organization, structure and financing?
That's a big question! In Canada we have good government support, but we still don't have the big number of athletes in the pool. In the US there is no government support, and also not that many skiers, so looking at it from a point of really getting the best athletes together for camps and such makes sense. We work really well with USST and their coaching staff to come together for amazing camps, especially on the ladies side. We know there are no secrets to hide from each other, so the cooperation is really good. This carries over into the winter when the two team really support each other as well, and we're both much stronger for it. I'm sure other countries could do this as well if the coaches agree to share ideas and combine efforts-for us it only made sense. Our ladies will share camps in Bend, Oregon on-snow in May, Alaska in June/July, Park City in September and Canmore on-snow in Oct. We just finished a workout today at Mt Bachelor on-snow with the US and there was ~ 30 women doing a intensity workout together-Pretty amazing!
Q: When did you regroup after the season? What are your plans for spring/summer?
J.W.: I guess this is a good point to tell you we've made a new plan to separate our men's and women's team this year. This has come out of the fact we've realized our women have much different needs then our men, and we want to make sure each team has the best set-up possible. This means we'll share some training camps, but most will be apart. Once the season starts we'll be back on the road together and work together as we have in the past. Heading the women's team is Eric DeNys, and he'll have consultation from Torbjorn Karlsen, who was Beckie's(Scott) coach for her last few years racing. I'll also be involved a bit, but to a much lesser degree then in the past.
My main focus will be the men's team, and myself and Louis Bouchard will combine forces at all camps and give the men the support they need. I think this move of separating the teams should work out really well, and I'm excited for the process to begin.
The women's plan is above, but for the men the camps are on-snow in Bend, Oregon, then Maui, Hawaii. After Hawaii we'll have New Zealand, followed by Park City, Utah, and finally an on-snow camp in Canmore before we head to Europe.
Q: There are title events next three seasons. With the results behind you must have high expectations. Is it in your mind? What results are you hoping for?
J.W.: As I mentioned above we'd like to get a "few" medals, but really if everyone does what they can do maybe more then a few is possible. It's not being greedy, but we do have many athletes that have the capacity to do it. In Oslo we were pretty happy with just one, but we've really grown as a team since then. One outside area that might be interesting is the men's relay, so...