Retirement

16 years of cross-country ski racing.  10 years of life as a training center athlete.  Over 9,000 hours of training and racing.  Thousands and thousands of kilometers covered.  The days of eat, train, sleep, repeat have come to a close for me.

My skiing journey has been amazing!  I realize I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to chase my athletic dreams throughout my 20s.  I’ve had many memorable successes and shared incredible highs with family and friends. On the flip side, I’ve battled through obstacles, leaned on my family and friends for support and faced challenges more times than I’d like to recall.  At times, my journey has been character building and humbling.

I would not have made it beyond any of these obstacles without the support of a few important people in my life.  My girlfriend, Britt, has been by my side through everything.  Britt has supported and encouraged me every step of the way.  Whenever I hit a low and dwelled in self-pity, Britt helped me move past it and shift my focus to my next objective.  My Mom has been my biggest fan and supporter.  From joining me for hill workouts in the early days to being president of NTDC – thank you!  My Dad dove into the ski community with volunteer work in all capacities and has become a timing guru in his retirement – thank you!  My sister has been a consistent rock for support and thoughtful encouragement – thank you!  My Grandma has always shown her support and reminded me to “have fun!” – thank you!

Thank you Britt for sticking by my side through all my years of racing.  I love you!

I'm incredibly lucky to have such a supportive Mom and step-Dad.  Thank you for believing in me!

My Dad, Lappe's timing guru, in the centre with the crazy hat on.  Can't believe how much you have done in support of the ski community that raised me!  Thank you for everything!

I’ve had the honour to work with many coaches throughout my racing career.  Mark Metsaranta, Pauli Kaki, Eric Bailey, Mike Cavaliere, Stephan Kuhn, Chris Jeffries, Timo Puiras, Camille Cheskey, and Tim Wintoniw.  I am thankful to each of you for your support, encouragement, knowledge, and life lessons.

I want to give a special thank you to the Lappe Nordic Ski Club and the late Reijo Puiras.  Lappe became my second home in Thunder Bay. It’s where I learned how to ski and developed a passion for the sport.  It’s my favourite place to race and it’s where I’ve had my best performances. Lappe will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Nordic ski community is full of amazing people.  I feel lucky to have been a member of numerous cohesive teams and made lasting friendships in the process.  Skiing really has shaped my life for the better.

That said, being an amateur athlete is far from easy.  The biggest obstacle I have faced as an amateur athlete was financial.  There is very little money to go around for a sport that requires a high level of commitment where you don’t reach your peak until your mid to late twenties.

To be competitive in the senior ranks as a cross-country skier, much of my time was dedicated to training, cooking healthy meals, and sleeping 8-11 hours/day.  On top of that, I travelled constantly for training camps and races.  That didn’t leave much opportunity for working with any consistency.  I’ve been fortunate to have several good sponsors over the years, but that alone doesn’t cover the cost of rent, food, travel, equipment, phone, and vehicle expenses.  Never mind having money to go for dinner with friends or buy a new battery for my dying laptop.

I found it relatively easy to cover my expenses when I was a member of the National Ski Team and had financial support from Sport Canada.  I wasn’t living in luxury by any means, and I still required the help of sponsors, but I could cover all my expenses.  As a result, I was able to dedicate myself fully to my sport and I progressed to become a National Champion.

Since being cut from the National Ski Team, the past 3 years have been very difficult financially.  I struggled to find a good balance between working to earn money and my training.  I felt I had taken a step backwards, unable to cover my skiing expenses without the support of my family.

To this day, I am frustrated I had to deal with this huge obstacle at such a crucial stage in my ski career.  I was at my highest moment, winning 3 gold medals at National Championships and earning the overall aggregate title as Canadian National Champion.  I had 10 podiums on the North American circuit (NorAm) that year, including 3 wins.  I won the NorAm overall title.  I had solid international performances in my limited opportunities with a highlight 21stplace in a highly competitive Scandinavian Cup 30km Skate. I was 26 years old, entering the prime of my career as a distance skier with start rights to the early season World Cup races as NorAm Leader.  I was confident, excited, and ready to carry that momentum into the offseason.  I was ready to build on the best season of my life and prepare for the World Cup.

That April, after 4 years on the National Ski Team, I was unexpectedly cut from the team and lost all my funding.  I was left wondering if I even wanted to ski anymore.

I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to in my ski career, but I am really proud of all that I did accomplish.  I feel I got all I could out of myself given the circumstances I faced and the system I worked in.  Thinking back to when I started out ski racing in high school, I am amazed how far I’ve come.  “Started at the bottom, now we here!”  I picked up racing late and was never the most talented.  I worked hard with extreme motivation and focus to become one of the top skiers in Canada.

I love ski racing.  I am a passionate competitive sports enthusiast. However, the time has come for me to move on with my life.  I’m excited for new challenges and adventures.  That said, I won’t stray far from skiing.  I hope to stay involved, help out with the next generation and jump in local races and loppets when I can.  Skiing has given me so much.  I want use my experience to give back to the Canadian ski community.

Thanks for reading… see you on the trails!

Michael

I think I'm going to enjoy retirement!!!

Comments

Eric Packer said…
Congrats on a great career! You will be missed on the Supertour. Best of luck with whatever comes next!