Canada’s bid to host the 2023 Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships at Whistler Olympic Park is a winner.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) declared the next generation of Nordic stars will be striding and soaring into Canada’s west coast for the first time since the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
“We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to bring this prestigious event for aspiring Olympians in the Nordic sports back to North America for just the fifth time ever in its 40-year history,” said Dave Pym, Managing Director & CEO, Canadian Snowsports Association, who led the Bid on behalf of Canada’s three Nordic national sport organizations.
“This 10-day event, that will bring together the world’s best athletes ages 16-23, in cross-country skiing, ski jumping and nordic combined is sure to restore the excitement and memories that brought Whistler Olympic Park to life during the 2010 Games.”
More than 700 athletes representing 50 countries are expected to compete for the World Junior podium on Whistler’s ski trails and jumping towers. A developing group of Canadian cross-country skiers, including Remi Drolet (British Columbia), Xavier McKeever (Alberta), Tom Stephen (Alberta) and Olivier Léveillé (Quebec), who shocked the world to win the nation’s first-ever silver medal in the relay event at the 2020 World Juniors, are expected to be in their prime in 2023.
“This group of athletes represent the future of our sport and share a common goal of winning medals at the 2026 Olympics and beyond,” said Stéphane Barrette, Chief Executive Officer, Nordiq Canada, who added The Resort Municipality of Whistler are world-leaders in event hosting.
“Providing our young athletes with home snow advantage at a major international event will provide a critical test along their journey to represent Canada at future Olympics. Just as importantly, our hope is that bringing these talented athletes to the west coast will also help foster Olympic dreams in Canada’s youth, inspiring them to try our sports and get on skis.”
Canada’s top ski jumpers have been flying above Whistler Olympic Park regularly since 2010. The venue hosted a NorAm competition in 2019 and welcomed more than 100 international athletes in 2017 for a Continental Cup event. The venue also hosted the 2012 Canadian Championships.
“This event will be an outstanding opportunity to elevate our exciting sport and showcase the next generation of Olympic jumpers on Canadian hills,” said Todd Stretch, Chairman, Ski Jumping Canada, who added the small jumps (K20 and K40) are used each winter at Whistler Olympic Park to introduce youth in the area to the sport.
“Holding an event of this magnitude will also assist with refreshing the jumping facilities at the venue to help ensure the future development of the sport in Canada.”
This will be the third time Canada hosts the Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships. The Canmore Nordic Centre welcomed the next generation of Olympians, in 1997. The World Juniors for ski jumping and Nordic combined were also held in Mont-Sainte Anne, Que. in 1979.
Canada’s Nordic sport organizations have worked closely with the newly formed Black Tusk Nordic Events Society to manage the 2023 edition hosted in the Squamish and Whistler region. Norm Laube, Chair, and Reid Carter, Vice-Chair, of Black Tusk both key parts of an experienced Canadian Bid group responsible for bringing the event back to Canada.
“Canada continues to be the model by which the world measures Olympic legacies. Whistler Olympic Park was built to host these high-calibre events for the community to enjoy well beyond the 2010 Games, so we are delighted to welcome the Nordic sports back to Whistler in 2023,” said Laube. “Not only will these championships be an important growth opportunity for these sports in the region, but it will also be a boon to the economy in the Sea-to-Sky corridor.”
In addition to both playing leading roles in engaging the community over the next two years to get behind the event, Laube, Carter and the local team of volunteers will prepare for the 2023 Nordic festival by hosting a series of domestic competitions including Nordiq Canada’s 2021 Nordic Junior/U23 and Senior World Championship Trials, January 7-10. The venue will also play host to a Nordic Combined Continental Cup and FIS Ski Jumping Cup in December 2021 as test events for 2023.
“Our volunteer team has already put a tremendous amount of work into ensuring we are ready for the Trials in January, and we are anxious to showcase Canada, British Columbia and the Sea-to-Sky Corridor to the world once again in 2023,” said Laube, who added the Committee is working with Nordiq Canada, Cross Country BC and ViaSport BC on ensuring a COVID-19 Safety Plan is in place for the January Trials.
“The safety of our athletes, coaches, and volunteers will always be our number one priority. This year will be extra demanding, but our entire team is ready for the challenge, and look forward to welcoming the cross-country ski community to Whistler.”
The winning bid comes as Canada’s four Nordic sports have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to begin exploring ways they can work together to achieve their ultimate goals of putting more Canadian athletes on podiums and increasing participation in each of their sports. Nordiq Canada, Nordic Combined Ski Canada, Ski Jumping Canada, along with Biathlon Canada, have been working together to lead the Nordic Sports Strategy process that will evaluate opportunities of having a more unified approach to developing and operating Nordic sports in Canada.