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Keski 2003 is coming!
By:  Steve Bursey   (2003/02/15)

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With only a few days left before Keskinada weekend members of XC Ottawa are starting to feel the excitement and anticipation of competing in Canada's greatest cross-country ski race.

Calling the Keskinada "Canada's greatest cross-country ski race" may be thought of as a bold statement, considering there are so many good races held each year in this country, but there are many reasons why I feel confident that this particular race deserves such distinction.

I am not alone in calling the Keskinada a great race. Each year approximately 3000 skiers consider this race worthy of being a part of their competition schedule, making it the largest ski event in Canada. Even more significant is the fact that for most participants this is the only race that they will choose to take part in during the entire season. And it is not just Canadians that consider this race great. Competitors from approximately 20 nations around the world travel long distances to be a part of this wonderful event. In fact, the Keskinada's international greatness has traditionally been recognized through its inclusion in the 14 event Worldloppet series.

For comparison purposes let's examine why the Norwegian Birkebeiner is considered by many to be the greatest ski race of all. The Norwegian Birkebeiner is distinguished from all other ski events by is its rich history. The history of that event dates back hundreds of years and celebrates the ski legend of how national independence was maintained by two solders carrying their future king to safety on skis.

Although the origins of the Keskinada do not date back hundreds of years like the Birkebeiner, it does have a relatively long and interesting history characteristic of a great ski race. The race was conceived in 1978 in the Lachute region, over 100km northeast of its current location. At that time the race was named "Riviere Rouge" for the Red River of the same region. Over time the race grew in popularity until the point where the venue was no longer sufficient for the number of participants. For that reason in 1982 the course was relocated to the 36000 hectare Gatineau park. It was renamed the "Gatineau 55" for the park that it was held within and the 55km distance that it covered. In 1996 the race was once again renamed in order to better reflect the multiple distances and techniques of the various events held on the race weekend. At this time the new name "Keskinada" was developed with KE representing Quebec, SKI for cross-country skiing, and NADA for Canada. This year is a special one in the history of the Keskinada because it marks the 25th anniversary of that first race held in Lachute.

For the members of XC Ottawa the 50km skate also has special significance. For many members of the team there are two racing highlights in the season, the Keskinada and the Canadian National Championships. That just one day of racing at the Keskinada is regarded as highly as an entire week of racing at the championships of our nation shows that the "Keski" is distinguished as being the most important single race of the season. The fact that the Keskinada 50km event has been included in the FIS Marathon Cup signifies that the highest ski governing body in the world recognizes it as one of the eight greatest tests of international ski competitors. Because of this, for most members of XC Ottawa it will be their best opportunity of the season to test themselves against the world's best. We are also very pleased to be going into this 25th anniversary of the event considered the team to beat as we will be working together to help Karl Saidla defend his title as the men's overall champion.

Whether you aspire to be this year's champion of the Keskinada, or you are challenging yourself to complete the 25km course for the first time, I am sure when you cross the finish line you will agree that the Keskinada is a truly great ski experience.

 
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