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Whistler Nordic skiers quick in Sovereign Lake Nor-Am

Tyler Mosher on podium in three events

With a lack of snow at Whistler Olympic Park, organizers moved three Nor-Am cup cross country races to Sovereign Lake in Vernon, B.C. this past weekend.

Members of the Callaghan Valley Training Centre — one of three national development centres for Cross Country Canada — took part in races over two weekends, as did Paralympic hopeful Tyler Mosher.

Going back to Dec. 7, Mosher finished second in the men’s standing Individual Start Free Technique race using his classic skis. It was his first race of the season, with little training due to the late start in Whistler and the demands of his landscaping business.

He was also sixth in an extremely close 10 km classic race, just 1.15 seconds back of the leader, then moved up to second in another 10 km classic race behind Mark Arendz of the national para-nordic team, and won a shorter sprint race.

“I did make the criteria to compete in the World Championships, but I also hope to be competing in the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) World Cup in Whistler in March and hopefully qualify for the 2010 Paralympic Games,” said Mosher.

“Basically my understanding is that I have to get within 15 per cent of first place in a World Cup or a World Championship to qualify, and then the team will pick whoever is better,” he said. “It’s definitely tough because (the team) wants to send the best people, and anyone making the cut has to be really competitive — keeping in mind that (visually impaired skier) Brian McKeever also competes as an able-bodied athlete at the World Cup level, that’s the level they’re looking for in the standing athletes.”

For Mosher, who spends his summers running a landscaping business, the goal is to peak physically for the World Cup and World Championships much later in the season. “Due to the fact that I’m running a full-time business and I’m on two nationals teams (including para-snowboarding), I just don’t have as many opportunities to train, but my fitness is good and now I’m able to concentrate on both cross-country and snowboarding.”

The snowboarding side is picking up since Whistler hosted an inaugural World Cup race last season. This season there could be three events between Italy, Canada, and the U.S., and para-snowboarding is being considered for inclusion in the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.

The format selected is slingshot, which is basically time trial snowboardcross. The sport mixes both freestyle and race techniques, is attractive to young snowboarders with disabilities, and there is no judging involved — something that is difficult because of the range of disabilities and classifications in Paralympic sports.

But while Mosher has been one of para-snowboarding’s biggest champions, his first goal is to make the 2010 team in cross-country.

“Get better at it, get more fit, get stronger, and do my best to represent my town in 2010. My goal there is to be top-20 in the 20 km classic race, and top-10 in the sprint classic, which is the last event of the Paralympic Games.

Mosher is classified as an incomplete Paraplegic, injuring his spine in a snowboarding accident in 2001 but recovering partial use of his legs. Built more like a rugby player than a cross-country athlete, Mosher has been working to make the Paralympics in cross-country since the Games were awarded to Vancouver and Whistler, teaching himself the sport and earning a spot on Cross Country Canada’s Project 2010 team. He says the experience has helped him to adapt to his injury, and do everyday things like walking. It’s also helped his snowboarding.

Other Whistler results in Sovereign Lake were all over the map.

In the Open Women’s 10 km Classic night race on Dec. 13, Leah Kirchmann from the CVTC was 36 th overall but fifth among juniors. Bryn Knight was 38 th and seventh among juniors.

In the Open Men’s 15 km Classic Dan Roycroft was 12 th overall out of more than 90 starters. Jesse Heckrodt was 34 th , Pate Neumann 42 nd , Chris Werrell 49 th , and Thomas D’Hont 58 th .

Earlier in the day Leah Kirchmann from the CVTC placed 10 th overall in another 10 km Classic, and third among juniors with a time that was just over two seconds back of the leader. Bryn Knight was 13 th overall and sixth among juniors, and Emily Nishikawa was 22 nd overall.

In the Men’s 15 km Classic Alistair Hardy-Poirier was 14 th in a field of 190 racers, and just over three seconds back of the leader. Christopher Werrell was well back in 127 th .

In the Senior Men 1.1 km classic sprint on Dec. 12, the CVTC’s top racer was Christopher Werrell in sixth place after qualifying his way into the A group. Thomsen D’Hont ranked 28 th after making the quarterfinals, and Sam Lindsay was 46 th .

In the Open Men’s 20 km Sprint on Dec. 7, the top CVTC athletes was Dan Roycroft in 13 th place, less than half a minute back of the top-10. Jesse Heckrodt was 19 th , Pate Neumann 32 nd , and Alistair Hardy-Poirier 51 st out of more than 70 racers.

In the Open Women’s 15 km race Bryn Knight was the top racer in 31 st .