First Person: Ken Read 

Ski team on track. Despite injuries, 2004 was a good for Canadian ski racers

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Pique : Back when you were with the Crazy Canucks, you guys had the reputation for skiing on the edge, that you either won or wound up off course or crashing. Are the injuries a sign that the athletes are pushing themselves harder?

KR : There’s no question the athletes are pushing themselves harder. You’re referring to a reputation that is actually a pretty false impression of us because skiing on edge is just the nature of ski racing. There were the occasional crashes, but for the most part the team always has and always will try to ski sensibly.

I don’t think anybody is taking unnecessary risks, but what does happen is when you start to come into the top level – and this is a reflection of a young team gaining experience – and begin to realize that you are able to win, that’s when you need to build and experience base because you are pushing hard, you’re charged up to know that you’re skiing against the best. All athletes have to go through that, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from. It’s just a learning curve you go through to gain that experience of when and where to push, and how far to push. Ultimately, when you look at very experienced competitors, they’re shrewd about the work they have to invest, the way they have to ski. With each year you become more efficient in your preparation, in the quality of your skiing, and the quality of your competition. It’s something every athlete has to learn

Pique : This upcoming season is pretty important as a World Championship year and a qualifier year for the Olympics, is there anything you guys are planning to do differently to ramp up for it?

KR : A little differently in that there’s going to be a significant focus on physical conditioning this year. We’re trying a system that will start with the national team, and that will be reflected all the way down. The team will start off as usual and then in June and July we’ll be 100 per cent dedicated to dryland training.

And that’s something, too, that we feel we need to build, the physical capacity you want in order to be able to compete with the best. I mean you look at a guy like Hermann Maier, he has his own personal trainer to ensure that he is in absolute top physical condition and is always at the cutting edge of what he needs. We’re trying now to develop the same kind of thing for our athletes.

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