Feb. 2, 2021

UCalgary a training sweet spot for elite Nordic skiers gearing up for world championships

Four students head to Finland to represent Canada at Nordic Junior World Ski Championships
Elizabeth Elliott qualifies for World's U23 Championship at last year's skate sprint in Mont Saint-Anne, Quebec.
Elizabeth Elliott qualifies for the World's U23 Championship last year in Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec. Doug Stephen

Beth Granstrom is from Revelstoke, B.C., but she chose the University of Calgary so she could also attend the Alberta World Cup Academy in Canmore, Alta. The academy is a national training centre that helps to develop high-performance cross-country and Nordic ski racers for Canada. It is the only one in Western Canada.

“I came to Calgary because the University of Calgary is a great school, and I can train for national and international cross-country ski competitions,” says Granstrom, a Faculty of Science student at UCalgary.

Granstrom is one of four UCalgary students who will compete for Canada in cross-country skiing in the U23 category of the FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in Finland Feb. 8 to 14. Elizabeth Elliott and Annika Richardson, also from the Faculty of Science, will compete as will Tom Stephen, a first-year Schulich School of Engineering student who is with Foothills Nordic and the Junior National team. Academy member Benita Peiffer in Open Studies was also selected but cannot attend due to an injury.

Granstrom was only informed in December that she was selected to compete. “It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to racing. This will be the first race of the year that wasn’t cancelled due to the pandemic,” she says .

From left: Annika Richardson, Beth Granstrom and Elizabeth Elliott

From left: Annika Richardson, Beth Granstrom and Elizabeth Elliott.

Bow Valley Photography

Elite athletes choose UCalgary

Calgary is a hot destination for elite athletes with training locations like the Nordic Centre, Canadian Sport Institute Calgary and the Olympic Oval in close proximity.

“Most of the athletes at the academy would have come here regardless to train, but because there was an opportunity to pursue their education, they also chose to go to school, at least part-time,” says Anneke Winegarden, who coached at the academy part-time for the past two years while pursuing her master’s degree in kinesiology.

The academy is based in Canmore, but training is offered in Calgary during the week so students can attend classes. Paige Latta, a second-year student in the Faculty of Kinesiology, enjoys this convenience.  

“We are put into groups based on our school schedule so it’s easier for us to meet up and train together in Calgary during the week, and often we go to Canmore to train on the weekends,” says Latta, who came here from Vernon, B.C., to attend the academy.

“I also appreciate help from the advisers when it comes time to choose classes that will work around my schedule.”

Tom Stephen at the World Juniors last year where his team made history winning Canada’s first silver medal in the relay.

Tom Stephen at the World Juniors last year where his team made history winning Canada’s first silver medal in the relay.

Both athletic and academic supports provided

Jodie McGill, who is a team lead for undergraduate advising in the Faculty of Kinesiology, often helps elite athletes on campus find the resources they need.

“We maintain great relationships with the leaders of the local training groups to make sure students meet their athletic and their academic goals,” says McGill. “Athletes have a great deal to balance, so we provide tips such as how to organize themselves for upcoming competitions and what important deadlines to watch for."

The academy has another strong connection to the university — as well as having two coaches from the Faculty of Kinesiology training athletes last year, the faculty’s Sport Medicine Centre treats many of the academy’s athletes.

“In Calgary, we have a helpful post-secondary community, we have the top sport science school in North America, and we have outstanding training facilities with leaders who support the student experience. It’s an alliance that works very well for elite athletes who are also pursuing their education,” says McGill.

The World Ski Championships will be held in Lahti, Finland Feb. 8 to 14. For information about the U23 Cross-Country World Ski Championships, follow @jwsc2021 on Instagram, #JWSC2021 on Twitter and Facebook and see the schedule of events.