Season Wrap-Up: Nationals & China

Another race season is over! After having cut last season short due to injury, racing the full winter this year felt pretty amazing.

The season finished off with Canadian Nationals in Thunder Bay, ON and a city sprint in China. Despite the often cold weather, Thunder Bay is one of my favourite places in Canada to race. I love how the courses seem to squiggle everywhere like spaghetti, and how every race inevitably finishes with one or two really hard climbs. Those climbs make pushing hard at the end of races really easy, which is great because there’s no better feeling than collapsing at the end of a ski race, knowing you went as hard as you possibly could.

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Lucky to have my dad at Nationals for a few days!
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Emma and I after the team sprint

Nationals started as usual with the team sprint. This year I got to partner up with my teammate Emma! We also had Nick and Sara racing in the mixed relay, and Anna and Tatiana racing in the women’s team sprint. We put ribbons in our hair, glitter on our cheeks, and wore matching headbands. I had a ton of fun going out there and pushing as hard as I could for my team, and really enjoyed having a no-pressure race to kick off Nationals.

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Happy RMR’ers ft. Team Gregg

One of the highlights of Nationals for me was the skate sprint. That was a race I’d had in the back of my mind for a while, and I was feeling especially nervous because I hadn’t skate sprinted since U23 Worlds in February. Fortunately, everything came together and I started the day off with a qualifier I was really happy with. In the heats, I was able to play around a bit with tactics in the quarters and the semi, and in the final I tried to lead from the start to stay out of trouble and then just give ‘er on the climb. That plan worked and I ended up just snagging the top spot in a finish sprint with Katherine, which was really exciting!

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Battling it out with KSJ in the sprint final
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Women’s sprint podium

The other highlight of Nationals was racing my first 30km, and seeing my good friend Sophie Carrier-Laforte compete in the men’s 50km. Cross-country skiing is one of the few endurance sports where men and women compete in different distances. As a woman, Sophie technically wasn’t allowed to race the 50km and so her resulted was listed as “disqualified”, but by racing nevertheless she succeeded in getting lots of people talking and thinking about the merits of having men and women race the same distances.

I would love to see men and women race the same distances in skiing, and would especially love if the women did some longer races and the men did some shorter races (to be clear, I don’t think that men and women should compete against each other– I just think we should all race the same distances). I think this would make skiing much more exciting to watch and would promote gender equality both in and outside of the sport.

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Emma and I leading the wrestling station at the Nationals Fast and Female event

After Nationals, I headed to China with a small Canadian contingent to race a city sprint in Yan’an city! Having the opportunity to race in China was one of the cooler things I’ve gotten to do as an athlete and I feel really lucky I got the opportunity to go there.

 

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Team Canada in China

 

After the flight overseas and a quick overnight stopover in Beijing, we flew to Yan’an where we were greeted at our hotel with crazy bright gold jackets for the whole team. We spent the first few days doing guided tours around the city– Yan’an was the centre of the Chinese communist revolution in the mid 1900s, and we got to learn quite a bit about this.

 

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Getting a glimpse of living conditions for many people in Beijing

 

The race was a skate sprint that basically ran around a city square in Yan’an. It was sunny and over 20oC, which was a bit crazy to race in but a lot of fun. The sprint was low-pressure and a great way to end the season, because I just got to race, push as hard as I could, and not worry about the result. I ended up finishing 20th, which I was really happy with!

 

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Race prep in the sun

 

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Are we bright enough? 😉

 

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Running warmup in downtown Yan’an

 

 

 

The trip finished with a day of sightseeing in Beijing and the long flight home. Now that the season is over and the rest month has started, I’m back in Athabasca for Easter holidays, enjoying time with my family and taking advantage of the amazing ski conditions. I’ll be heading back to Canmore soon, and then Pat and I will be going on a road trip down the US west coast. I’m looking forward to surfing and enjoying some warmer weather, but I also can’t wait to get training again in May!

 

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Home sweet home. Photo: PSJ

 

 

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Adventure day with the fam jam 

 

Last but not least, I want to thank my family, boyfriend, friends, coaches, teammates, and sponsors for your unwavering support this year. A big thank you also goes out to my club RMR and to the staff at CCC for everything you do to make living this dream possible. This was a whirlwind of a year with many ups and downs, but I can’t imagine being happier doing anything else! I feel so grateful to have so many people supporting me on this journey and can’t wait for many more exciting years to come.

Training starts in May, stay tuned for updates on the “New Year” then!

–Maya


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