Victor Hopper is not one to always take the conventional path. For
starters, the eldest of the three children of Rusty and Cathy
Hopper, Victor has excelled in a sport that often flies under the
radar screen, rising to provincial prominence as a nordic skiier.
And prior to
entering Lively District Secondary School this fall, Hopper spent
the past few years as a home schooled student, benefiting from the
additional flexibility home studies allowed for his strict training
regimen. Of course, it wasn’t always that way.
“I just started
skiing really to get out and enjoy the winter weather”, he admitted
recently. While he began to play minor hockey at the age of seven or
eight and spent summers at the same time enjoying a game of soccer,
his introduction to cross-country skiing dates back to not long
after his fifth birthday, by his recollection anyways.
“Just getting the
chance to go out with other people….and enjoying a really fresh
snowfall is always nice”, Hopper explained of the attraction to a
pastime that by its very nature is likely to account for frosty,
rosy cheeks. But a “pastime” is hardly what nordic skiing has become
for the talkative teen these days.
“I realized that if
I wanted to, I could do this competitively.” And compete he did,
winning three gold medals and a silver at the 2008 Ontario Winter
Games while excelling from December through February on the Ontario
Cup Circuit. After a few years of simply participating for the love
of the sport, Hopper admitted that something just clicked in
December of 2007.
“I just knew that if I
went out and tried my best, I would do well”, he says. Coming off a
very successful 2007-08 campaign, Hopper has picked up the pace of
his off-season training this past summer, working out on roller skis
and training alongside long-time coach Patti Kitler as well as
clubmates Andrew Kendall, Katie Ellsworth and Marlee Clement.
While a serious side has
arrived, it does not dominate the focus of the sport in Hopper’s
eyes. “There always has to be a fun aspect to it”, he suggests.
“Once you get out there, on the course, the fun just comes by
itself.” With the help of Kitler, whom Hopper describes as “very
wise…with lots of experience”, the hard-working young athlete is
becoming increasingly more dedicated.
“There is still a lot of
learning to be done – eating properly, training to think like an
athlete. I think the key is to try things and make it work for
yourself” notes Hopper, showing wisdom of his own, far beyond his
The upcoming season will
provide even greater challenges as Hopper enters year one of the
two-year Juvenile age grouping. Still, he views placing well at
Ontario Cup competitions and getting to Nationals as two goals for
which he can strive. And based on his progress to date, few are
likely to bet against him.