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05 March 2019 | in Winter FISU World University Games, Cross-Country Skiing

It’s not all about gold: Top-30 goal for Canadian skier

From athlete to spectator experience, the Krasnoyarsk 2019 Winter Universiade was a gold medal event

Canadian university athlete Aidan Kirkham’s first time outside of North America promises to be memorable. The skier will be spending it in Krasnoyarsk, Russia competing at the Winter Universiade.

 

The environmental sciences student competes for the Ottawa-based Carleton Ravens in the Ontario University Athletics conference. Last year, he was named its men’s champion for nordic skiing, along with teammate Zoe Williams on the women’s side. He’s built off that success this year, including a pair of gold medal wins at the 2019 OUA Nordic Ski Championship.

 

“This season has been excellent so far,” he said. “I have been racing very consistently and have felt good. I’ve achieved great results in both classic and skate races, plus distance and sprint races.”

 

Beyond OUA meets, the 20-year-old comes to the Games with a few non-university competitions already under his belt this year. Most recently in Duntroon, Ontario, he finished seventh in the 15 km race. He participated in the 10 km race and 1.5 km sprint as well. He’s also raced on the US Super Tour and in other FIS events around North America.

 

Kirkham, who finished second in the free pursuit competition at the 2018 Canadian Ski Nationals, has been practicing the sport for half his life.

 

“I have been cross-country skiing for the past nine or ten years,” he said. “I would say that I only started taking it seriously six or seven years ago while I was in highschool.”

 

Now, it’s a year-round endeavor.

 

“Once you get to a high-enough level in any sport, it usually requires 12 months of the year to train in order to compete with the best,” he said.

 

He credits his other athletic pursuits with helping him on the slopes.

 

“Growing up, I was involved in running and triathlons,” he said. “I still use running, biking, and swimming as modes of training.”

 Cross Country Ski competitors are tested to the limits by the demanding climbs of the Raguda venue in Krasnoyarsk

Kirkham has a few goals for the Universiade, one of them being a finish inside the top-30. He also wants to experience other aspects of the Games.

 

“I want to see the Russian culture,” he said. “I am excited to see how different Russia is from North America in terms of food, attitudes, and everyday life. Russia has a rich, historical past. I am hoping to experience some of that.”

 

Kirkham knows the challenge in Russia will be fierce, and he’s prepared. It will be his first time representing Canada internationally, and he’s going to embrace the pressure.

 

“This definitely will be one of the most competitive races I’ve ever competed in,” he said.

 

Kirkham will be racing in the 10 km classic and 10 km sprint races, as well as the 4 x 7.5 km relay.

 

By Salim Valji, U-Media Reporter and FISU Young Reporter Programme alumni