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Welcome! My name is Michael Somppi and I'm a competitive cross-country skier. I developed this blog so sponsors, family, friends and fans can keep up to date with my life as a full-time athlete. You can expect regular blog posts about racing, training, and life in general. Check out other sections of my blog by clicking on the tabs above.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Racing My Way to Europe

What a season so far. It’s been everything I could have dreamed of. From Silver Star, BC to Rossland, BC to Thunder Bay, ON racing has gone as well as I could have wished for. I started out with two solid performances in Silver Star against the majority of North America’s with a 10th place in the classic sprint and 15th place in the 15km skate. Rossland was the much anticipated mini-Tour format. With the same competition from Silver Star plus a few more Canadian National Team members I skied to a solid 17th placing in the skate sprint, a great 12th place in the 10km skate, and a not-so-hot 20th place in the 15km classic. Overall my pre-Christmas results were the best I have ever had.

Over the Christmas holidays I kept the focus on my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Under-23 World Championships. The good start to my season fueled my drive to succeed and I put in some good training hours in preparation to peak for the trial races in Thunder Bay. It was difficult to believe I would come around when I felt so tired only a week before the races. I trusted my coaches and guess what, it worked. I peaked perfectly for the Thunder Bay Trials races.

In the 30km pursuit race I skied with the lead pack for 28 tough kilometers. It wasn’t until someone attacked on one of the final climbs when my lactated legs said enough and wouldn’t let me follow. I finished 7th place and 3rd U-23; a good result that put me in contention for a spot on the team. The classic sprint was another exciting day for me. I skied what was probably my best qualifier ever, finishing 9th and 4th U-23. I didn’t ski all the heats perfectly, but I did manage to make the B-final count and finished the day in 9th and 5th U-23. I was in the running and I knew I had to have a good day in the final race; the pressure was on.

Start of 30km Pursuit. I'm at the front on the left.

The final race, the 15km skate individual start has in the past been a strong race discipline for me. Last year I struggled with it due to my shin injury, but this year after having surgery to cure the injury I felt back to my normal self. I started the race with one goal in mind; ski as fast as I possibly can. I knew it would hurt however I had the motivation to push through it. All the home crowd cheering helped spur me on and I crossed the finish line completely spent. My result: 3rd place and 1st U-23! After 4 previous years of trying I finally accomplished my goal. I qualified for the Canadian World Junior/U-23 Championship Team! I didn’t stop shaking until well over 2 hours after finishing the race.

The Sunday NDC Thunder Bay Medallists: Andy, myself and Jimmy

And now here I am, in Vierumaki, Finland. I arrived with the team on Monday and trained here yesterday and today. Tomorrow I will be traveling along with a few other U-23 skiers to Otepaa, Estonia to race the World Cup before the World U-23 Championships. It will be a great experience to race a European World Cup and to test out the courses before the U-23 Champs. Not going to lie, I’m a little nervous, haha. No big deal, taking on the big names in cross-country skiing.

Above: Some of the team eating lunch at the Scandic Hotel buffet.

Below: Skiing on the Vierumaki Trails in Finland. A little sketched out by the trails under the culvert. Let's just say I had a bad past experience involving some ski wreckage.

Another bonus of coming to Finland for me was I had the chance to visit the Peltonen ski factory, a 40 minute drive from Vierumaki in the small town Hartola. They are my biggest sponsor, providing me with all the skis I could want for racing. It was an amazing opportunity to meet general manager, Juhani, tour the factory and pick up some new skis. I am so grateful for the support Peltonen has provided me with.

Inside the Peltonen Factory! Eric checking out ski cambers with the high tech Swedish ski testing machine.

On that note I would like to thank all my personal sponsors for helping me realize one of my biggest dreams, racing in Europe: John McDonald Law Office, Lappe Furniture Co., Neety Panu & Juha Metsaranta, Dr. Reijo Peltoniemi, Harbourview Optometry, Lappe Nordic Ski Club, Peltonen, Alpina Sports, and Swix. Thank you to all of NDC Thunder Bay’s sponsors as well!

Next up, Estonia World Cup! Game on.

Michael