THUNDER BAY – SPORTS – Thunder Bay’s Mayor Keith Hobbs, local race organizers, coaches, and athletes gathered today at École Secondarie Catholique de la Verendrye to officially launch the 2015 Haywood Ski Nationals.
Over the next eight days, more than 500 of Canada’s top cross-country ski racers will be competing at the Lappe Nordic Ski Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario for a chance to be crowned National Champion. Over 84 teams will be in attendance with all ten provinces and one territory being represented. The event also serves as the Canadian Colleges and University Nordic Championships (CCUNC) where Lakehead University will be vying to regain the Men’s National Team Title, which Laval won last year, and the Women are looking to defend their title against a strong Carleton Team.
“Local race organizers have been working very hard over the last year to make this a great event,” said Werner Schwar, Co-Chair of the local organizing committee. “Countless hours have gone into securing sponsorship from key community partners, recruiting over 250 volunteers, trail preparation, and much, much more. The community has come together to make this an outstanding event ”
Thunder Bay has a rich history of hosting cross-country ski events — with the largest Finnish-speaking population outside of Finland this comes as no surprise. In the last fifteen years, Thunder Bay has hosted the World Nordic Ski Championships (1995), the National Ski Championships (2000, 2006), the Noram/Continental Cup (1998, 2004), and every year it hosts the Sleeping Giant Loppet, an Ontario Cup, and the 24 Hour Relay (where several world records have been attempted). Within 30 minute of the city centre, there are over 50 kilometres of expertly groomed ski trails, and within an hour of the city the number jumps to 100.
But the Thunder Bay ski community has done more than just host events and build world-class trails; it also develops athletes. Thunder Bay currently has five nationally recognized ski clubs, two of which offer “full-service” race programs: Big Thunder (includes Lakehead University) and Lappe Nordic. Full-service means that the club offers development programs from a very young age through to senior age athletes and beyond. Thunder Bay is also home to one of Canada’s National Development Centers (NDC), which provides elite cross-country skiers with intensive training and competition programs. These talented athletes serve as role models to younger athletes in the community and across Canada.
Mike Somppi, current National Team Athlete and former NDC Thunder Bay and Lakehead University athlete, says that he is very excited to be back in Thunder Bay competing on his home trails, “I want to thank all those who have made this event possible. >From the local artisan gift prizes to all of the volunteers, I have no doubt that it will be one of the best events ever. I encourage all of Thunder Bay to come out to watch some incredible ski racing and to enjoy some of the best Finish Pancakes in the area.”
The event is hosted by the Lakehead Superior Nordic Association, which is a partnership between Lappe Nordic Ski Club and Big Thunder Nordic Ski Club. Competition will get underway on Saturday March 14th beginning with the team sprint event. For a full race schedule and for more information about the event, please visit the event website at www.skinationals2015.com