Following the recent Canada Cup in Thunder Bay, I was able catch up with Reijo Puiras, colourful founder of the famous Lappe Nordic Ski Centre, host venue for the weekend’s races. While north of the border he needs no introduction, I will simply say that he is a pillar of the Canadian cross country skiing community. He also represented Canada in international competition, notably at the 1976 Olympics. Here is what he had to say:
What was your involvement in the Canada Cup Races?
Well, as you know, while these races took place at Lappe, they were officially hosted by Big Thunder ski club. My role for these races was Chief of Course. In that capacity I was very happy that we lucked out and had great weather for the races.
What were some of the highlights of the weekend for you?
It is always a great moment for a groomer when you lay down the finishing track in the grid. It is a good feeling to know that everything worked and that the trails are ready for the races. When everything is done the groomers shake hands and are proud that they have done the best job possible.
At another level, we had a bit of a medical emergency during the races. One of the skiers had a severe asthma attack and had to be taken by air ambulance to hospital. I was happy and thankful that we were well equipped to handle the problem. The ski patrol was with the skier within a few minutes, followed by the air ambulance. It reminds you never to let your guard down, and to always be prepared for this type of incident. It is the first time in 27 years that something like that has happened at Lappe.
Lappe will host the Canadian Championships in 2006. What are your thoughts on that?
I am looking forward to having many good people involved in making the 2006 Nationals the best ever. We have a terrific community of volunteers here in Thunder Bay.
What do you think about the many new formats ( mass starts, continuous pursuits, sprints etc) that cross country skiing has been experimenting with?
It is my personal opinion that the 30k individual start classic race is the best race there is. From that perspective, I am sorry to see that there are not so many of them anymore. In particular, it is too bad that this race is no longer part of the Canadian Championships.
On the other hand, sprints, mass start races and courses that are favourable to spectators do bring a lot of excitement to the sport, and there is certainly value to that. A 50k individual start race consisting of two loops of 25k will not bite for spectators in North America.
I would like to see normal weekend racing have two good distance races, with a sprint race in addition. Perhaps we could come up with a format for the sprint races that would be less time consuming.
What would you like to see happen in Canadian cross-country ski racing over the next ten years or so?
I would like to see more Canadians finishing consistently in the points on the World Cup. But to get there the numbers on the domestic side will need to grow. This could be accomplished through the system of clubs that we have in Canada. You know the story, the more racers we have, the more “Wayne Gretzkys” we are likely to find in the pile!
Thank you Reijo!For complete results from the Thunder Bay Canada Cup, please go to www.zone4.ca