The Quick Hit Story

I started out skiing as youngster with the Lappe Jackrabbits Program, but hockey was my main sport.  I played competitive hockey for a number of years, then made the switch to cross-country ski racing in high school.

As part of the Lappe Junior Racing Team I worked hard and moved up the results board through my high school years.  In 2006, my last year of high school, I won 2 individual medals at the National Championships and realized I could compete with the best juniors in the country.

I moved onto engineering at Lakehead University and tried to balance my studies with skiing.  It was challenging and my skiing took a hit. 

I love ski racing and decided to make it my priority in the short term.  I joined the Thunder Bay National Team Development Center in 2007 and began my ski racing career.

I competed for 10 years as a training center athlete (7 years with Thunder Bay and 3 years with Alberta World Cup Academy in Canmore).  In conjunction with being a training center athlete, I was also a member of the National Ski Team for 4 of those years.  I’ve had incredible journeys, made good friends, enjoyed the highs of success, and leaned on family and my girlfriend through the lows.

I enter what will be my final competitive season as a cross-country skier, full of determination to finish my career on the highest note.  Qualifying for the Winter Olympic Games and skiing strong at the National Championships in my hometown are my focus.

The Full Ski Memoir

Michael started skiing when he was four as a part of the Lappe Jackrabbits Program at Lappe Nordic Ski Centre. His main focus as a youngster was hockey. He played AA and AAA hockey all year round. When Michael turned 14 and started high school, he decided he wanted to push himself in a solo sport. He made the switch to competitive cross-country skiing and joined the Lappe Junior Racing Team.

Under the guidance of the Lappe coaches, Michael worked hard to improve and over time some good results began to come his way. A highlight in his ski career was the 2006 National Championships, which took place in Thunder Bay. With support from his hometown, he won individual silver and bronze medals as well as a silver medal as a part of the Lappe Challenge Boys Relay Team.

In 2006 Michael graduated from Hammarskjold High School and began his first year of study at Lakehead University in the mechanical engineering program.  He stretched himself thin that year combining 13 classes over the school year with full-time training and racing.  After the school year ended he knew he had to decide whether school or skiing would be his priority.  He chose skiing.

Michael became a member of the Thunder Bay National Team Development Centre (NTDC) in 2007, which was a big step towards realizing his long-term goals in skiing. He lived and experienced more of the amateur athlete lifestyle than ever before; racing and training across Canada and the United States.  Michael had such a great time that he stuck around for a few more years.  During the 2009/10 season he struggled with compartment syndrome issues in his shins and opted for surgery in July 2010.  The surgery was very successful and he has had no difficulties since.

Post-surgery Michael had a very successful 2010-11 season where he qualified to represent Canada at the Under-23 World Championships in Otepaa, Estonia.  His top result was a 14th place in the 15km Skate Individual Start race.  The trip marked his first races ever in Europe.  He also represented Ontario at the Canada Winter Games held in Halifax and brought home a silver medal from the event.  When the season was complete he was named to the 2011-12 National Ski Team!

Michael showed further improvement in his debut season as a member of the National Ski Team.  He represented Canada on a European B-Tour, competing in several Scandinavian and Alpen Cup races where he had 3 top 20 finishes and gained valuable international racing experience.  He also competed in his first loppet, the American Birkebeiner (North America’s largest loppet), where he finished 4th place in the competitive 50km skate event, only 0.2 seconds off the podium.  Michael finished the season strong with a 3rd place in the 10km classic at the National Championships.

In an effort to improve as an elite athlete Michael left his hometown of Thunder Bay in the spring of 2012 and moved to Canmore, Alberta to pursue skiing as a member of the Alberta World Cup Academy.  Additionally, living in Canmore allowed him to work more closely with the National Ski Team.  The move worked out well for Michael as he hit his stride during the 2012-13 season on Canada’s domestic racing circuit, the NorAm series.  He stood on the podium 7 times, including 3 victories, and became the NorAm leader in February, earning start rights to the season finale World Cup events.  He competed in World Cup events in Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Michael spent two more years in Canmore, working hard to qualify for International racing opportunities and make the most of the ones he earned.  Unfortunately, he was never able to find that breakthrough International performance.  He did however, have a fantastic 2014-15 domestic racing season!  He won 10 medals on the NorAm circuit, including 3 gold.  Then capped off the season with his best performances, winning two individual gold medals and the overall aggregate at National Championships in his hometown!

Despite having won both the 2014-15 NorAm series and the 2015 National Championships, he was not included on the 2015-16 National Ski Team.  His lack of a top International result was the rationale behind the decision.

With the loss of his government funding he could no longer afford to live in Canmore, so the decision to move home was easy.  Michael took extended time off in the spring to reflect on skiing and whether he wanted to continue.  As the NorAm winner, he had guaranteed World Cup starts for all pre-Christmas races and in consequence, decided to train for the racing opportunities he had earned.

Michael rejoined the Thunder Bay National Team Development Center, trained hard throughout the summer and fall, and enjoyed his time in Europe racing World Cups.  Once he returned to Canada, Michael raced nearly every weekend to qualify for Ski Tour Canada, which would be hosted in Quebec and Alberta as the season ending World Cup event.  He was successful in qualifying and completed the gruelling 8-stage Ski Tour in 49th place.

After competing in so many World Cup races and seeing firsthand the fitness level of the best in the world, he decided to continue in the sport, he needed to make a real effort to increase his annual training hours.  It certainly didn’t go smoothly, there was some real burnout in December, but this past season Michael managed to break the 800-hour annual training mark for the first time.  Although he wasn’t racing fast early, he did come around by the end of the year and won the overall aggregate at National Championships.

After 10 years of life as a training center athlete with the Thunder Bay and Canmore teams, Michael is going in a different direction for his final year of racing.  He has gained valuable experience over the years and now has the capacity to coach himself with advice from others.

He’s excited for the opportunities this year presents!  Qualifying for the Winter Olympic Games and skiing strong at the National Championships in his hometown are his focus.  Michael has one more chapter left to write in his ski career and is determined to finish it with an exclamation mark!


Anonymous said…
Judging by the name you have Finnish roots therefore GO Michael!!! Hopefully you´ll soon have your final breakthrough to the international level!!

Br, The Finn-bear

Anonymous said…
Suomalaiset sukujuuret ?
Anonymous said…
Wow, how funny is this that you received already 2 comments on your probable Finnish roots! I was wondering the exactly same thing as I saw your name on the result list of Lahti Ski Games 2013. :) Do you happen to know, if your roots come from Western -Finland? I wish you all the best for the season!

- Salla