Wild Rumpus Sports

June 9 Roundup: Ward Tapped as Biathlon Canada HP Director; John Bower Passes

Biathlon Canada has a new high-performance director: women’s national-team coach Roddy Ward. The announcement was made on Biathlon Canada’s website, following the departure of Eric de Nys earlier this spring.

“We are delighted to have Roddy in the role of High-Performance Director,” Biathlon Canada General Manager Andy Holmwood said, according to the press release. “He brings a strong understanding of biathlon at the international level combined with unique insight to the sport. We are confident both our development and high-performance programs will progress under his leadership.”

A Canmore native, Ward previously competed in biathlon and earned a master’s in education with an emphasis on coaching from the University of Victoria. He has spent “the past several seasons” as a Biathlon Canada national-team coach and will continue to coach the women’s team “in a dual role through the 2018 Olympics”, according to the press release.


John Bower, an Olympic nordic-combined skier and U.S. Ski Team nordic director, passed away earlier this week. (Photo: USSA)

– On Tuesday, June 6, former nordic-combined athlete and U.S. Ski Team nordic director John Bower passed away at the age of 76 in Park City, Utah. Bower was an Olympian and the first American to win the prestigious nordic-combined King’s Cup. According to a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) press release, Bower was instrumental in the development of the Utah Olympic Park and its Olympic legacy facilities in Park City.

Growing up in Auburn, Maine, he became the first skier to win four interscholastic state titles in 1959 at Edward Little High School. In 1961, Bower became the first Middlebury College skier to win an NCAA nordic-combined title and totaled four national titles in his career. He competed at two Olympics in 1964 and 1968, placing 13th and 15th for the best finishes by an American nordic combined skier at the time.

“His milestone accomplishment came at Norway’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival in 1968 where he became the first American to win the prestigious King’s Cup,” the press release explained. “His win at Holmenkollen set the standard for other Americans who followed him including Kerry Lynch (1983), Todd Lodwick (1998), Bill Demong (2009) and Bryan Fletcher (2012). The victory earned him an audience with the king of Norway in Oslo, as well as an invitation to a White House dinner in the king’s honor later that year.”

Bower later coached at Middlebury from 1968 to 1975 and was the U.S. Ski Team (USST) nordic director from 1975 to 1980 — “a highly successful period for the American team” — before serving as athletic director at Principia College in western Illinois. He returned to his post as USST nordic director from 1988-1990.

“John Bower is a great example of a highly accomplished skier who dedicated his entire life to helping other athletes,” USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw said in the press release. “In particular, his work in developing the Utah Olympic Park leading up to the 2002 Olympics was a key part of the legacy that is still positively impacting athletes today.”

Bower was the first director of Utah Winter Sports Park (now the Utah Olympic Park), who oversaw the development of venues and programs from 1990 to 1999 in the leadup to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. He was named to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1969 and is one of Maine’s most recognized sport stars and a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame and Lewiston Auburn Sports Hall of Fame. Middlebury selected Bower to its Hall of Fame in 2014, and he is an honorary member of the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation board.


– Also on Tuesday, Norway’s Therese Johaug attended a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing regarding an appeal by the International Ski Federation (FIS) opposing her 13-month ban. The CAS ruling, which could still be several months away, will determine whether Johaug will be able to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics. FIS is aiming to extend her ban as it claims the 13-month suspension, handed down by the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports’ (NIF) Adjudication Committee, was too lenient, InsidetheGames reported.

FIS appears to be aiming for a 16-20 month suspension, which would cause her to miss the upcoming Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Meanwhile, Johaug is still training as usual, with a month-long, extremely high (3,000 meters, nearly 10,000 feet) altitude camp planned in Aspen, Colo., sometime before October, according to NRK.

Her coach Pål Gunnar Mikkelsplass claimed her spring and summer tests show she’s in better shape than ever.

“I have had good test results,” Johaug told NRK after Tuesday’s hearing, according to a loose translation. “I have had continuity in training and can focus on just myself. It’s not that I’m necessarily skiing faster, but at least it’s good for me to see that after all I’ve been through, it hasn’t made me a worse skier.”



– The British Nordic team recently named four skiers to its elite cross-country team for the 2017/2018 World Cup season. The four athletes, Andrew Musgrave, Andrew Young, Callum Smith, and Annika Taylor, all met team criteria for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Last season, Musgrave placed fourth in the World Championships 50-kilometer freestyle mass start and had the second-fastest time of day in the season-ending 15 k freestyle pursuit at World Cup Finals. In 2015/2016, Young placed third in a World Cup sprint in Toblach, Italy. The lone woman on the team, Taylor is originally from California.

Great Britain sent four athletes to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where it posted results outside the top 10. But with Norwegians Hans Kristian Stadheim and Jostein Vinjerui onboard as specialist coaches, the team is optimistic about its future.

“We are coming into a very exciting time for British Nordic,” Britain’s head coach Roy Young told InsidetheGames. “We have athletes who are capable of podium finishes at world-class level, and it is looking like we will take at least four athletes to Pyeongchang 2018 to represent Team GB.”


– FIS approved a Women’s Nordic Combined Continental Cup during its annual meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia. The first race will be hosted by Otepää, Estonia, in January 2018. There will be three races total, with the last race being shared with the men in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. There is currently no senior Nordic Combined World Cup for women, nor is it an Olympic discipline. There will be a test for a Junior World Championships this season, while a Youth Cup took place last year. USSA also announced it will host an inaugural Women’s Nordic Combined National Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Oct. 7. USA Nordic Executive Director Billy Demong explained that the addition of women’s events both nationally and internationally has been one of USA Nordic’s goals.

“We are committed to keeping up and, to the best of our resources, staying ahead of the world as this event makes its debut at the senior level,” he told InsidetheGames. “This is an opportunity that we are fully behind.”


Visma Ski Classics Climb leader “lumberjack” bib

– For its eighth season, the Visma Ski Classics is introducing a new climbing competition for pro competitors and will reward its leaders with a red-and-black checkered lumberjack bib. Pro Team racers can collect points at eight different checkpoints (at the top of hills), according to a Ski Classics press release, and the highest-scoring male and female athlete at the end of the season will be crowned “Climb champion” and collect prize money at the final gala in Levi, Finland. The leaders of the legends standings, Anders Auckland and Seraina Boner will start the season wearing these brand-new bibs.

— Alex Kochon and Ian Tovell

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