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Canmore World Cup legacy inspired skier to reach highest level

“It’s cool that eight years later I’m here and I’m actually racing this time. It’s the coolest thing ever."

CANMORE – Anna Parent can pinpoint the exact turning point when racing on the Cross Country World Cup got added to her to-do list.

Set to debut at the World Cup in Canmore Feb. 9-13, the local skier is realizing a childhood dream that started eight years ago in the skier’s backyard. 

In March 2016, the last time the top circuit was in the Alberta mountain town that’s home to one of North America's top Nordic ski facilities, Parent was sucked into the hype of the international event.

“I remember the energy was amazing and I was like I want to do this one day,” said Parent, 23, who was then in her mid-teens.

Growing up in Canmore, cross-country skiing is an activity that’s inherited into the fabric of the community. However, to say Parent was into it for the long haul back then would have been a stretch – even if she is the daughter of cross-country skiing Olympian Rhonda DeLong. 

That is until the best skiers in the world arrived in town and Parent got a sweet gig out of it.

“I was one of the young kids selected to be a forerunner, so one of the kids selected to ski the course before and I thought it was so cool,” said Parent. “I remember getting autographs from all the athletes and thinking this is the coolest thing ever.”

Skiing wasn’t a top priority for her at that point, but it was soon about to be.

Now, Parent, along with 13 other Canadians, are set to have their first World Cup races in a few days, and her childhood dream is becoming a reality.

“It’s cool that eight years later I’m here and I’m actually racing this time. It’s the coolest thing ever,” she said.

Katherine Stewart-Jones, who has been one of Canada’s top women on skis for the past few years, will compete in Canmore as well.

In 2016, a 20-year-old Stewart-Jones debuted on the World Cup and said she’s spoken with teammates about what to expect.

“A couple of people have talked to me about how they’re really nervous about it because they know how fast these World Cup girls are and I’m just reminding them there’s really no pressure,” said Stewart-Jones. “It’s their first-ever World Cup so all you can do is your best and it will be cool because people will be cheering you on.”

For the hometown Parent, supporters will be cheering her on during all four races – the classic and skate sprints, 10 km interval freestyle and 20 km classic.

It isn’t the first taste of international competition for Parent though, who competed at two U23 World Championships, with her best results being 17th in the 10 km classic in 2022 and 30th in the 20 km classic in 2023.

Knowing she will have underdog status in Canmore, Parent is showing confidence in the home-course advantage, especially in classic distance races like the 20 km mass start.

“It’ll be six times up The Wall, [the big hill at the Canmore Nordic Centre], so it’s a really tough course, but I’ve done it millions of times so I’m pretty confident,” said Parent.

“I know where to push and everything, but I can’t really give too many details on that. You’ll have to see on the day,” added Parent, with a laugh.

Along with Parent, homegrown talents Xavier McKeever and Sam Hendry are set to compete in the men’s races. 

A highly-touted prospect, McKeever, 20, is skipping the 2024 U23 World Championships to participate at the hometown World Cup.

“If the World Cup hadn’t been in Canmore, it would have been an easy decision and I would have gone to the U23 championships, but just the fact that the World Cup is coming back to Canmore is really exciting and it’s kind of always been on my mind that I want to race at home in a high-level competition,” said McKeever to the Outlook in a prior interview in January 2024.

Last week, Nordiq Canada announced a big 26-athlete roster, which includes the World Cup debuts of Parent, Marlie Molinaro, Élie-Anne Tremblay, Marielle Ackermann, Anna Stewart, Maeve MacLeod, Katya Semeniuk, Julian Smith, Erikson Moore, Ry Prior, Félix-Olivier Moreau, Xavier Lefebvre, Micah Steinberg and Eamon Wilson.

The rest of Team Canada includes: Stewart-Jones, McKeever, Hendry, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt, Katherine Weaver, Antoine Cyr, Julien Locke, Olivier Léveillé, Léo Grandbois, Pierre Grall-Johnson, Scott Hill, and Rémi Drolet.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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