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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Devon Kershaw: Nearing the end of a beautiful journey
2018-04-19
by Randy Pascal

Not that it was the least bit unexpected, but there was a sense of nostalgia in the air as Sudbury native and Lockerby Composite graduate Devon Kershaw competed at his fourth and final set of Winter Olympics in February in South Korea.

"There was a lot of reminiscing and discussion with staff about how much things have changed, both in my career and in our nordic ski program in Canada over these last 12 years, said Kershaw in e-mail correspondence last month, his 2017-2018 competitive season coming to an end only days earlier.

After missing out on what would have been a historic medal for the Canadian team in 2010 (Vancouver) by less than a second, things simply did not come together in Pyeongchang nearly as well for the father of a 14-month-old daughter.

"I struggled badly with my health in Korea, and we couldn't accomplish our big goal of having a man on the Olympic podium," said Kershaw. "That will have to be for the next generation to pursue."

"I was hoping to ski better, but with the cold weather, my lungs were affected badly and that made the 16 days of racing there difficult for me, for health reasons, which was disappointing."

As was noted constantly in the mainstream media, conditions in the mountains of Pyeongchang were far less than ideal, a reality that hit nordic ski competitors squarely between the eyes.

"As Canadians, we are used to cool temperatures, but - 17 C coupled with winds of 40/50 km/h (steady) made things very cold," Kershaw said. "The tracks were all open - it's a golf course in the summer - so the wind made things rather challenging."

While there were certainly some very positive aspects to his first Olympic experience in Asia, the well-spoken and insightful veteran of the Canadian team acknowledged that pretty much that any venue outside of Europe will suffer from less ambiance, for the athletes, than the very epi-center of nordic ski, that place where the sport and athletes are truly appreciated.

"When I compare all four Olympic Games with the World Championships, where there were 10,000 or more spectators some days, it makes for rather "quiet" racing in a high stakes environment, which is strange, of course, for us," he said. "Sadly, I have never competed in an Olympics with very good crowds cheering."

On the flipside, he could not complain at all about the arrangements in South Korea, nutriotionally speaking. "The food in the athlete's village was quite good," said Kershaw. "The best I've experienced, with friendly staff and a wide variety of options, which was nice."

Though he will miss the racing environment, Devon Kershaw is comfortable that it is time to move on. "For the short term, I am moving with my wife and daughter from Oslo to Lillehammer, and I will go to university, for sure," he said.

"It's a beautiful journey, but I have to have a minute or two to have a good discussion with my wife and explore some education options and the like before making a concrete decision with regards to racing. One thing is for sure - if I do keep racing, I wouldn't be racing beyond next season."

But as he leaves, Kershaw shared some words of wisdom, largely based on being immersed in a milieu where athletic activity is cherished, certainly in a more wide-spread manner than his native land.

"I think that people should know that the sporting-life is a great life," he acknowledged. "Canada is notoriously bad at understanding, supporting and having a widespread "sport IQ", and the support and understanding of athletes competing at the apex of their sports is very low compared to other countries around the world with the same economic power."

"It's sad in a way, because we have so much potential in Canada to have better sport development systems in place to allow the younger generation to enjoy and learn from competing. In the absence of that, it's a good thing that we do have a good system in hockey development, so we can cheer on our NHL heroes, like we have done for decades."

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