home schooled
(October 2008)

Fourteen year-old 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 years.

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.


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