Now in its 15 th year, the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup has proven its value to ski racing in Canada, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Most members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team competed in the Whistler Cup, as well as many of the top ski racers on the World Cup circuit. For many skiers it was their first real international competition, and first time representing their country.
“Podium winners here invariably end up on the World Cup,” said Whistler Mountain Ski Club director Nigel Cooper. “Look at any top-15 on the World Cup today and a high percentage of them have been participants in the Whistler Cup at one time or another. And none of it would be possible without all the work of our chair John Rea and all the volunteers.”
The 2007 Whistler Cup, which is open to athletes aged 11 to 14, will feature 400 racers, including about 140 racers from 20 visiting countries, and the top club skiers from across Canada. The Whistler Mountain Ski Club’s K1 and K2 racers also get to compete. The competition runs from April 6 to 8, and features a super G, giant slalom and slalom for K2 racers, and a kombi, GS and slalom for K1 racers.
Canadians area also starting to catch up to the Europeans. While it wasn’t uncommon for Canadians to ski into the top-10, last year K2 Erik Read — son of Canadian downhiller and Alpine Canada CEO Ken Read — made the podium twice.
According to Cooper, the experience is more important than the results, although he says that several WMSC skiers are capable of winning medals, include K2 national champion Madison McLeish.
“At this stage any kid can win on any given day,” he said. “Erik Read was a standout last year, and while he didn’t exactly come out of nowhere I don’t think anybody expected him to stand on the podium. I’d say we probably have five or six kids in the club that can pull that off if everything goes well, and I know all eyes will be on Maddy.
“It should be fun, whatever happens, and our skiers always learn a lot watching the other teams train and race. It’s a huge amount of work to put on, I’d say there will be about 200 coaches and another 400 to 500 volunteers, but it’s great for the club.”
With the Canadian Alpine Ski Team in Whistler for a training camp the next few weeks, a lot of skiers will be helping out with the event at the opening and closing ceremonies, medal presentations, and team banquet.
Britt and Mike Janyk, both members of the national team, are among Whistler Cup veterans.
“It’s important because suddenly you realize how many other competitors are out there in the rest of the world, and in Canada,” said Britt. “Usually you’re competing with a few other clubs in your area, and you have no idea how many clubs there are out there.
“You also get to see how strong alpine skiing is as a sport, and if you can get a good result you realize that you can compete against anyone in the world. It also can motivate you to do better and get to that level.”
That sums up Mike’s experience. He didn’t do well when he was a Whistler Cup competitor, but still viewed it as a positive experience.
“If you don’t do well it’s not the end of the world, there’s still a lot of room to grow,” he said. “You can still make it with hard work and determination. You may really want it, but you don’t need it to succeed at that level even if it seems like it’s the biggest thing in the world to do well.
“The biggest thing I got out of the Whistler Cup was being able to hang out with other people from all over Canada and around the world, and just enjoying the experience of a world class event at that age. A few of the guys I raced with then I’m racing with now on the World Cup circuit, from Switzerland or Sweden, and we remember each other from back then. That’s the biggest thing to take away from this, not your results.”
The club is still looking for volunteers to help out with this year’s events. Anyone interested can sign-up online at www.whistlercup.com . A schedule of events is also available on the website.