Black Jack’s David Palmer

Black Jack’s David Palmer

Times Winter Games Primer: Black Jack stacks B.C. Men’s x-country ski team

Athletes from the Black Jack Ski Club and Red Mountain Academy will suit up for Team B.C. in Prince George this week.

Athletes from the Black Jack Ski Club and Red Mountain Academy will suit up for Team B.C. when the 2015 Canada Winter Games get underway in Prince George this week.

From Feb. 13 until March 1, the 2015 Canada Winter Games will bring together 2,400 athletes, 1,000 coaches and officials, up to 4,500 volunteers, hundreds of media and thousands of visitors in Prince George and northern B.C. in the the largest and most prestigious multi-sport competition for young Canadian athletes.

Five Black Jack cross-country skiers fill out the men’s Team B.C. squad, including David Palmer and Geoffrey Richards of Rossland, Julien Locke of Nelson, Scott Fraser from Saskatchewan and recent U23 World championship qualifier Colin Ferrie of Kimberley. The skiers have had a quality season on the Haywood-NorAm circuit this year and with Colin Ferrie returning from the U23 World Championships in Kazakhstan today, are expected to do well at the Games.

“It (Black Jack) is the only program in the province that has so many senior skiers that are so good,” said Black Jack coach David Wood.

To have so many quality skiers from one club on one team is indeed rare, and while it likely has much to do with the former National Team coach, Wood deflects any praise to the Black Jack Club as a whole.

“It’s not just me, it’s the whole club that is doing well, and I think in Black Jack that’s our focus and that is what we are trying to accomplish.” said Wood. “We have an environment where skiers can train in the Kootenays and succeed nationally and internationally, and these guys are quite good with the junior skiers as well.”

The extensive training has paid off for the tight-knit group of skiers, and Wood expects good results when it comes to the Games competition.

“Our guys are certainly going to be amongst the favourites,” said Woods. “They are all different; Julien will fight hard in the sprints, I believe he can win, and David and Colin are more distance guys, and they’ll do fine there too. But I think the B.C. Team should be able to win the relay, we have lots of good guys, and we’re solid on every leg, so I think that should be a real goal.”

Joining the Black Jack skiers on the provincial team is Red Mountain Academy slopestyle snowboarder Isabella Beharrell, a Nanaimo native. The snowboarder finished second and third at the FIS championship at Big White last month.

The cross-country skiing events will commence the second week of the Games, with the first race going Feb. 23, while Beharrell will hit the slopes on the 24th.

“This is a great opportunity for the BC athletes to be able to compete in their home Province,” said Chris Nakonechny, Head Coach of the BC Provincial Snowboard Cross Team.

“The lead up to the Games has allowed BC Snowboard and the Northern clubs to further grow the sport in the North. All in all it has been very successful.”

Following the Games, Black Jack skiers will compete in the National championships in Thunder Bay in March.