From Feb.25-March 5, the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Team will compete in the International Paralympic Committee Nordic World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden. With Solleftea hosting the last world championship before the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Team USA hopes to make an impression that will translate to the Sochi podium.
After a week of rest and recovery the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Cable, Wis., which produced 13 medals for Team USA, the team has changed gears and started a three to four week training routine. John Farra, high performance director for U.S. Paralympics Nordic skiing, explained that there is a high performance plan tailored for each athlete, which he hopes will translate to successful individual results in Sollefta.
The team took part in training camps in Winter Park, Colo. and Casper, Wyo. at high altitude so the athletes can reach their peak performance. “The high altitude will get their blood flowing and ready them for Sweden. It should take a little bit of the pressure off as well,” said Farra.
The stress of competition is something these athletes have come to know well and can expect in the world championships. With two of the top men in the field of Nordic skiing, Cable medalists U.S. Navy Lt. Dan Cnossen (Jamestown, Mich.) and Andy Soule (Pearland, Texas), retired U.S. Army, have their work cut out for them.
“The fiercest competition we have right now is in the men’s sit ski,” said Farra. “Cnossen and Soule are itching to make a podium, and since Soule has been back, he is ready to focus on skiing full-time.”
Soule missed the last two seasons to finish school. He won gold in biathlon a the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, the only gold medal ever won by a U.S. biathlete at the Olympic or Paralympic Winter Games, so concentrating on taking home the world gold is a key for him.
While Soule paces the team in biathlon, Cnossen hopes to win a medal in cross-country skiing.
Competing for the United States in Solleftea with Cnossen and Soule: Eric Frazier (Maple Hill, N.C.), retired Marines; Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash./Twin Lakes, Idaho), retired Air Force; and Jeremy Wagner (Honolulu, Hawaii), retired Army Reserves.
Farra stated Cnossen, Soule and their teammates are improving every day. With the stiff competition pushing Team USA to perform their best at the world championships, Sweden and the IPC World Cup Finals, slated for Sochi, Russia, in March should prove successful.
“We are bringing the best to an incredible venue in Sweden. This will be in a new facility, so we will be testing it first,” said Farra. “With a smaller team, we can focus on weak points and really try to get the athletes at their highest performance.”
With this competition being the last world championships until the Paralympic Winter Games, it is of immense value to the five athletes who will compete. The Swedish event will push the athletes against the world’s best skiers.
“It’s a big deal, but it’s a perfect opportunity to boost confidence, practice and focus on improvement and handing the pressure of competition,” explained Farra.
The team, coaches, directors and everyone involved has beamed about the development and growth of the program. The Nordic Skiing World Championships will pose a chance to showcase athletes’ talent and the progress the sport has made.
Following the world championships, with about a week until the world cup finale, Team USA will take a trip to Italy for training. The U.S. athletes will train for 5-6 days where successful able-boided biathletes have trained prior to success events including the Olympic Winter Games.
The IPC will live stream all of the events from the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships on IPC's YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/ParalympicSportTV, with the footage being provided by Finnish broadcast company Videpe.
The live stream will begin each day at 10 a.m. CET. (Click here to view the current time in Solleftea, Sweden.)
For more information on the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, please visit the event website at www.ipcnordicskiingworlds.org.