National Team Development Centre — Thunder Bay’s Best Kept Sports Secret

By Phil Bode

Lisle Compton, Evan Palmer-Charette, Annika Richardson, Julian Smith, Katherine Stewart-Jones, Angus Foster, and Sadie White. Not a cross country skier? Then you probably don’t recognize these names. However, if you ski at Lappe Nordic Ski Centre or Kamview, or are part of Canada’s high performance ski community, you probably not only recognize these names, you know that they are part of the National Team Development Centre (NTDC) based right here in Thunder Bay.

NTDC Thunder Bay was established over 20 years ago to provide world class training and support for some of

Katherine Stewart-Jones wins gold in 10 km classic race at Rossland, BC Haywood NorAm, December 2016

Canada’s best cross country skiers. NTDC athletes train 600-800 hours year round. Their goal is to represent Canada at international competitions such as the World Junior and U23 Championships, World Cup races, and the Olympics.

This team of 14 athletes came from across the country to start training last May. You may have seen them around, roller-skiing on the roads, running on the trails and working out in the gym. “Skiers are built in the summer, not born in the winter,” as the popular adage goes.

Last June, the team headed to Montreal and Mont Tremblant for a dryland training camp with members of the National Ski Team and skiers from the other two training centres. After a short break in Thunder Bay, the team was back on the road, heading to Marquette to train with a number of their American counterparts. Late September saw them off to a high altitude camp. Normally a winter paradise, Park City was no vacation, as the athletes were busy putting in big hours before the racing season. A typical day featured four to five hours of training, beginning with a morning session of roller-skiing or running over mountain passes. Afternoons were kept “light”, with a shorter run and a one to two hour stint in the gym.

Bob Thompson sprinting at the US National Championships, Soldier Hollow, Utah, January 2017

The team returned to Thunder Bay to recover from their efforts and prepare for pre-Christmas competitions. Veteran Bob Thompson and Thunder Bay native Angus Foster headed to Canmore, Alberta, for Frozen Thunder, where selection races were held for the pre-Christmas World Cup races. Bob qualified and booked his ticket for Europe.

December found the team competing at Sovereign Lake and Rossland, BC in a pair of NorAm races. A number of NTDC skiers reached the podium at these races. After a brief eight day break over Christmas, the team headed to Soldier Hollow, Utah for the US National Championships/Canadian Junior/Under 23 Trials. As busy as they are, there’s more to these athletes than just skiing – a number of them are also students at Lakehead University and Confederation College. Winter exams were squeezed into breaks between competitions.

And those names you didn’t recognize – those are the skiers who will shortly be off to Soldier Hollow, Utah, for the World Junior/Under 23 Championships or who have been selected to go race in Europe. Some of the best cross country ski racers in Canada, hiding in plain sight, right here in Thunder Bay.

Follow NTDC on Twitter @NTDCTBay or Facebook @NDCThunderBay for updates.