.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

XCOttawa.ca Scrapbook of Press Clippings.
By:  Craig Storey   (2002/05/01)


XCOttawa.ca has appeared in a number of print media publication in it's first two years of existance. Here are a few of the highlights clipped from our mother's scrapbooks.

Ottawa skiers dominate cross-country races
Sarah Peters, Karl Saidla post career-best victories

Kris Westwood
The Ottawa Citizen

Monday, February 18, 2002

Two Ottawa-area cross-country skiers scored career-best victories yesterday in the men's and women's 50-kilometre freestyle races of the Keskinada loppet in Gatineau Park.

"I can't believe it," Sarah Peters of Navan said with a gasp after crossing the finish line in two hours, 43 minutes and 57 seconds, nearly five minutes ahead of the second-placed woman. "This is huge, this is amazing."

Peters, 24, gave a dominant performance, leading the last 45 kilometres of the race in conditions made difficult by strong winds blowing 10 centimetres of fresh snow across the course.

Peters had been part of the national development team, based in Thunder Bay, but lost her spot two years ago because of illness. She decided to return to Ottawa and race as an independent, financing her comeback with part-time work in a bakery and sponsorship from a ski company.

Her best previous result was seventh in the North American Cup.

"Winning a world loppet is so much better than that," she said.

Sandy Tetreault of Old Forge, New York, finished second in 2:48:41. Gabrielle Nadeau of Cap Rouge, Que., was third in 2:49:10.

The men's race was much closer.

Robin McKeever of Canmore, Alta., and Jean Paquet of Val Belair, Que., started fast and opened a two-minute lead on their pursuers, but the tough conditions took them, allowing Ottawa's Karl Saidla and Lee Churchill to work together to close the gap.

Paquet and Churchill fell back late in the race, but Saidla caught and passed McKeever with seven kilometres to go and went on to win in 2:22:04.

William Fitzgerald of Thunder Bay also overtook McKeever, finishing second, 16 seconds behind Saidla. McKeever ended up third in 2:22:49, with Paquet fourth and Churchill eighth.

Like Peters, Saidla, 24, is also a former Thunder Bay development athlete who recently returned to Ottawa, partly to join the newly formed XC Ottawa club.

Saidla acknowledged the sacrifice that Churchill, his teammate, made to help him win.

"We decided to do a team effort," Saidla said. "We do a lot of training together. It's a really good atmosphere."

The 25-kilometre race, held at the same time as the 50-kilometre event, featured a surprise performance by Montreal's Dasha Gaiazov, who was not only the fastest woman, but also ninth overall out of 396 finishers.

Gaiazov, 18, emigrated from Russia with her parents three years ago. This year, she won virtually every race she entered, and she was selected to represent Canada in the junior world championships in Germany, but couldn't go because she won't become a Canadian citizen until summer.

Patrice Côté of Chicoutimi was the men's 25-kilometre champion with a time of 1:25:16.

Ottawans Conquer the Hills

Monday, February 18, 2002

A couple of Ottawa skiers struck gold yesterday in the Gatineau Hills.

Karl Saidla and Sarah Peters won the men's and women's 50-km freestyle races, respectively, in the Keskinada Loppet.

On the final day of one of the top cross-country ski events in North America, athletes from all over the world faced the gruelling 25- and 50- km freestyle races through the windy and challenging trails of Gatineau Park.

Local skiers were in abundance and Ottawa's best showed their strength and the way to the podium in the toughest race of all, the 50-km event.

Saidla, 25, skiing for the new X-C Ottawa Club, was the first to cross the finish line in two hours, 22 minutes and four seconds for his first Keskinada victory.

"It was just great," said Saidla. "There were difficult conditions over the course.

"Two years ago, I came in 13th, and four years ago sixth. This year, I did it."

Victory was also sweet for Peters, 24, who won the women's event in 2:43.57.

"It was amazing. This is huge for me," said an emotional Peters. "It's my home town and my home race.

"I won this race for my best friend, Jeff Campbell, who died eight years ago on this day. I wanted to win for him."

Both Peters and Saidla grew up in Ottawa and have skied the Gatineau Hills for many years.

They also both skied with the Nakkertok X-C Racing Club, then undertook the national team development program in Thunder Bay, but eventually returned to Ottawa.

"I've skied these hills for about 15 years, and I can say that I know this course like the back of my hand. It helps," said Saidla. "During this race, I wasn't in the lead until the last 3 km, that I went for it."

The large amount of snow that fell Saturday night turned the race into a more tactical and technical one.

"Where there were open areas, the snow was deep and that slowed everyone down," said Peters. "I saw my coach at the 30-km mark and he told me to focus on technique, which really helped.

"There was one area toward the end of the course where I had to be careful, a hill where other skiers can easily catch you up."

Unfortunately for Saidla and Peters, their victories yesterday don't count for points in the national rankings, but they're looking ahead to the Canadian nationals, which will be held in Canmore, Alta., March 5-10.

"(The Keskinada Loppet) is a big race, and coaches can notice you here. The nationals are the next step for me. I would love to go as far as I can with skiing. It's such a great sport," said Saidla.

"I'm heading to the nationals and one of my long-term goals is to participate in the 2006 Olympics and to ski internationally for Canada," said Peters.

Earlier in the day, Patrice Cote of Ste- Catharine, Que., won the men's 25-km freestyle with a time of 1:25.16, while Dasha Gaiazov of Montreal captured the women's 25-km event in 1:35.58.

Carleton skiers to compete in World University Games in Italy
by Andy Watson

Carleton students Megan McTavish, Karl Saidla, David Zylberberg and Tom McCarthy (all part of xcottawa.ca) have been chosen to represent Canada on the nordic ski team at the 2003 World University Games (WUG) in January in Tarvisio, Italy.

Pavol Skvaridlo, head coach of Carleton’s nordic ski team, says the four athletes have already accomplished a lot simply by being selected to compete in this prestigious sporting event.

Skier Carleton’s nordic ski teams are fast, feared competitors on the university circuit. In 2002 the men’s team won a silver medal at their Canadian College and University National Championships (CCUNC) while the women’s team finished fourth overall in the CCUNC event. "It definitely bodes well to have students compete in international competitions with world class athletes,” he says. “WUG is the third or fourth-highest level of competition in our sport.”

McTavish, who has already accepted the invitation to compete, says she is excited about her second WUG appearance.

"It’s very good racing and a very good experience, especially to race against the Europeans because they’re really fast.”

McTavish races in both the 5K and 10K nordic ski events and says she expects the same high level of competition she experienced at the winter games in Poland in 2001. Her personal goal is to finish in the top 30.

"It would be good if our relay team could place in the top 10,” she adds.

McCarthy, who joined McTavish at the world games in 2001, says he will not be attending WUG this time. Instead, McCarthy is training to compete in the World Under-23 Championships this season. His goal is to regain his spot among the world’s best in his age category.

"I want to be back at the same level again. I want to see how far I can push my body, see how fast I can ski and prove to myself that I can do it.”

Drew Love, Carleton’s director of physical recreation and athletics, will join the athletes in Italy as Canada’s chef de mission and will lead a contingent of 100 student athletes, coaches and support staff during the world games.

"I look forward to providing the best possible care and support for our athletes as they represent Canada,” Love says. “Having Carleton athletes representing our program and our country at the games makes it really special for me. I will be following their events with great interest.”

To make the games a reality, McTavish will be busy training this fall between classes and assignments. She also needs to raise $3,000 to cover her expenses.

McTavish says the experience is well worth the cost of the competition.

globe "The Poland games were such a great experience,” she says. “In Poland we stayed in a hotel with athletes from three or four different countries. We learned some cultural things about Poland. There were cultural Polish bands and they were teaching us Polish dancing. It was fun.”

And, McTavish adds, the chance to travel abroad to compete in the sport she loves is too thrilling to pass up.

"It’s great to be able to represent your country,” she says. “It’s neat to be able to walk around with Canada written on your clothes and be highly regarded by the other athletes around you.”

WUG is a multi-sport event that takes place every two years in various cities worldwide, alternating between summer and winter sports. Participants must be university students between the ages of 17 and 28 or have graduated the previous year from university. The 21st WUG in Italy will include approximately 100 Canadian student athletes. In 2001, Canada’s only medal was a silver earned by the men’s hockey team.

Andy Watson, BJ4, is a freelance sportswriter in Ottawa.

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