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West Kootenay skier heading to Winter Olympics

Rossland’s Remi Drolet and Quebec’s Olivia Bouffard Nesbitt join Olympic x-country ski team
Black Jack skier and Rossland native Remi Drolet was named to Canada’s Nordic Men’s Olympic team on Friday. Photo: Doug Stephen

Black Jack skier Remi Drolet of Rossland is heading to Beijing, China to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Drolet along with Quebec skier Olivia Bouffard Nesbitt were named to Canada’s Nordic Team on Friday, after the International Ski Federation (FIS) reallocated one position to each of the men’s and women’s team.

“It feels great,” Drolet told the Rossland News on Friday from Team Canada’s x-country training facility in Vernon.

“It’s been something I’ve been working towards for a long time. I think I dreamed about it growing up, then starting about four years ago, it became a goal and something I’ve been working towards for a very long time, so it feels good to achieve it.”

The 21-year-old Drolet turned in podium results at the Olympic Ski Trials in Canmore, Jan. 6-11. But his second overall finish in the 15-km classic on Jan. 8 likely cemented his position as first alternate and ultimate selection to the Olympic cross-country ski team.

“He was pretty stressed about it after the trials,” said ski coach David Wood. “He had to show up, and he had one chance on one day, and he delivered.”

The three spots on the Men’s team had been predetermined by results at the World Cup from Olivier Leveille (Sherbrooke, Que.), Graham Ritchie (Parry Sound, Ont.) and Antoine Cyr (Gatineau, Que.), leaving only the alternate spot for Drolet to set his sights.

“It was kind of a stressful time going into this part of the season, because going to the Trials I knew that I might not even be fighting for anything,” said Drolet. “But I knew I had one chance and I was really glad I was able to seize it.”

Remi’s sister Jasmine earned the second alternate spot on the women’s team, after her podium results at the same Olympic and World Jr/U23 Ski Trials, and was so close to joining Remi on the Olympic team.

Wood says the 19-year-old Jasmine has all but guaranteed her place on Canada’s World Jr. Women’s team and will have World Cup starts this season.

“She has been racing amazing this year, she’s really, really strong and it’s great to see,” said Remi. “Even though the Olympics weren’t really her priority this time around, she’s focusing on getting good results at the World Jr. Championships this year. So it’s great to see she’s basically there already, fighting with those older women.”

Remi took a sabbatical from his studies at Harvard this year to direct his efforts to his Olympic goal, while Jasmine is currently attending Dartmouth College and skiing for the NCAA cross-country ski team.

When asked what he looks forward to most about his Olympic experience, Remi replied: “Mostly, the whole atmosphere over there, being in the Olympic Village, and the venues, and seeing the Olympic rings posted everywhere.

“I think it will be a little surreal.”

As for results, the 21-year-old is keeping his expectations in check.

“I want to feel like I am fighting in the group at least, and being competitive,” said Remi. “I think it’s kind of early in my career to be shooting for medals, but I’m hoping to be in the thick of it. A top-10 result would be really good for me.”

The Drolets journey started over a decade ago in Rossland with the Black Jack ski club. Remi has put in a lot of miles since, and earned many victories along the way, including a silver medal in the team relay at the 2020 Junior World Ski Championships in Germany.

Yet, the opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage is the ultimate honour and one he would like to share with his community.

“There’s no way I’d be here without all of them,” said Remi. “I have had such a great community supporting me all along the way. Growing up in Rossland, in my mind, is probably the best place to grow up in the entire world. The community has been so awesome, and the club’s been so supportive.

“And of course, Dave Wood, my coach, I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to work with him through the years, and just really grateful to have had that support.”

On Jan. 13, Nordic Canada announced the four women and three men selected for the Olympic teams based on the criteria outlined in their Internal Nomination Procedures.

In addition to the men’s team, Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse, Yukon), Cendrine Browne (Saint-Jérôme, Que.), Laura Leclair (Chelsea, Que.) and Katherine Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.) were named to Canada’s women’s team.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Remi and Olivia to test themselves on the ultimate stage, while having the opportunity to realize their Olympic dream,” said Stéphane Barrette, CEO of Nordiq Canada in a release. “Gaining two additional quota spots allows Nordiq Canada to deepen our high-performance program by having more athletes on the start line competing against the world’ best.”

Team Canada is training in Vernon and keeping strict COVID protocols. The team flies out of Vancouver to Beijing on Jan. 26 for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Cross country skiing goes from Feb. 5 to 20 (Day 2 to 16) at the Zhangjiakou Cross Country Centre.

Read: Black Jack skiers excel at World Jr. and Olympic Trials

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Jim Bailey

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