Levi, Finland November 2 – 21, 2018
By Rich Huggins, Registered Physiotherapist, Certified Sports Physio
This trip to Levi, Finland marked my 8th trip working with Alpine Canada Alpin (ACA) and my 3rd trip to the Scandinavian region. In March 2018 I was lucky enough to travel with our Alpine Canada Men’s Ski Team to Norway and Sweden and in 2017 I was fortunate to work the World Junior Ski Championships in Are, Sweden with our Alpine Canada Development Team.
Levi, Finland is home to the World Cup season opener in the Slalom discipline. It’s nicknamed the “Reindeer Race” as the winner is given a reindeer, which the winner also gets to name. The sport physiotherapist is there to help prepare our Alpine Canada Women’s Slalom Team for this big race. The Women’s Slalom team is currently a great mix of experience and personalities, featuring Erin Mielzynski, Laurence St-Germain and Roni Remme. The staff and athletes on the Women’s Slalom team are an incredible group to work with – they are focused on the task at hand but keep things light by getting some laughs in along the way. They are also very welcoming and appreciative to have a physio travel and work with them, making the experience that much more enjoyable.
In preparation for the race we trained for about a week in both Levi, Finland and Kabdalis, Sweden. A typical day with the team is 2 – 3 hours on the hill followed by 1 – 1.5 hours of dryland work and then some physio in the evenings before dinner. As the sports physio your responsibilities are primarily hill safety, first aid response and providing physio treatment when needed. Just as important though you are called upon to help chauffeur, “pull” the course after training, help with practice timing, carry jackets down the hill and be another team member to bounce ideas off of. These are the skills they don’t teach you in sports physio, but are the most important! I’ve always enjoyed the “team” atmosphere and even though these ladies are competing individually, they are a team and work as a team.
If you are new to skiing then you might be asking what slalom is. The slalom discipline is a “technical” ski event in that it is more focused on skill to create speed, and therefore the fastest time. The race consists of two runs that typically lasting 45 – 60 seconds in length depending on the course. Due to the windy conditions the start was lowered in Levi, which meant the course times were shorter than previous races here.
This year, Levi’s World Cup women’s race featured 73 racers from around the world. Every racer competes in the 1st run, but only the top 30 racers after the 1st run get to do a second run. The best time after two runs is the winner. It was great to see all three of our Canadian women place in the top 30 after the 1st run and race with purpose. After the second run we had Erin placing 11th, Roni 27th and Laurence DNF (did not finish). A good start to the year but lots to work on as the season begins to ramp up. The winner of this race was American Mikaela Shiffrin. This was the third time Shiffrin has won this race. Yes, she’s good – she’s who everyone is trying to beat. Shiffrin named her reindeer Mr. Gru, who will join her other two reindeer (Rudolph and Sven) to live the reindeer’s life in Lapland, Finland. Marcel Hirshier won the men’s race and named his new reindeer Mr. Snow. He has two previous reindeer – named Ferdinand and Leo (whom I’m seen pictured with).
For the Canadian summary of the race, visit the CBC.
Thanks again to the Women’s Slalom team for inviting me for this trip! How amazing it was to work with some amazing athletes, see the Northern Lights, suck face with a reindeer, watch the sunset at 2:45 pm, ride a Fatbike through the Lapland landscape and eat local fare. If you have been thinking of a northern hemisphere trip to experience northern living then I would highly suggest Northern Finland. Cheaper then it’s neighbors and the people of Lapland are as welcoming as they get. Plus, it truly is one of the best spots in the world to see the Northern Lights!