Russell Kennedy will make his international world cup debut next month in Norway.
RMO File photo
Canmore Nordic Ski Club standout Russell Kennedy remembers exactly when he caught the Olympic bug.
Ripping around the Squaw Valley Ski Resort, he was nine years old when he met American Olympic gold medallist Jonny Moseley. Growing up in Truckee, California, there was no bigger alpine star than Moseley at the time and once Kennedy and his friends discovered he was on the hill, they stopped at nothing to track him down.
“I still remember Jonny Moseley getting gold way back when, then meeting him later that year at Squaw Valley. He said something to me that hit home. He said ‘you can do anything,' and I was pretty pumped. Ever since that moment, watching the Olympics, I wanted to be a part of that,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy received good news in his own quest to reach the Olympics, as he captured the men's FIS COC Canadian title, which earns him three-world cup starts in March. Kennedy will race in Drammen, Holmenkollen and Quebec City as part of Team Canada.
“These are my first international world cups. It's a pretty big move. They are well known world cups – some of the originals,” Kennedy said. “Holmenkollen, it's such a piece of history. To see the crowds in Norway will be just unreal.”
Kennedy has transitioned from a sprint specialist to a strong, all-around skier capable of achieving NorAm podiums in any discipline. His strong performance at the Canadian Eastern Championships solidified his trip overseas, and now he'll get another chance to test himself against the best in the world.
“It won't be the easiest races over there for me, especially the 50 kilometre and the classic sprint. But it will be an awesome challenge to put my fitness to the test and really see what I can do,” Kennedy said. “I always wanted to race overseas. I'm in it for world cups now.”
Kennedy, 25, is the veteran member of the Canmore Nordic Ski Club's high performance team, dubbed ‘Team RAD.' The team mostly consists of junior skiers, but Kennedy said it provides the right atmosphere to achieve his goals, while pushing young athletes such as Sam Hendry and the Godfrey brothers, Ty and Reed, to catch him.
“Working with the younger guys, they are nipping right at my heels. It's a super talented group,” Kennedy said. “The kids are stoked and we have a lot of really positive momentum with Team RAD.”
It hasn't been the easiest season for Kennedy. He caught a case of bronchitis right before world championship qualifiers and didn't race well.
“Earlier this year I had a few sinkhole moments, where I didn't know what was going to happen this year. I pulled my head out of the sand and I'm stoked with that. I'm surprised what I can do with a couple of weeks of training,” Kennedy said.
Cross Country Canada hasn't announced which female skier will join Kennedy on the world cup, as several of its top prospects are battling injury. Canada will have 15 male and 15 female start spots for the Quebec World Cup.
Kennedy knows the competition will be stiff in Norway, but with less than a year until the 2018 Olympics, he's happy to keep chasing the dream and perhaps create his own Jonny Moseley moments.
“I don't know what will happen, but I'm excited to be part of the process,” Kennedy said.