Comox Valley nordic skier enjoying life as an elite athlete

Gabe Gledhill, 18, training with the British junior national team

Gabe Gledhill in the 1.4km classic sprint qualifier in Vuokatti, Finland on Feb. 9. Photo supplied

A nordic skier from the Comox Valley is reaching new heights in his sport as he lives the life of an elite athlete.

Gabe Gledhill, 18, and his British junior national teammates spent the past few months in Norway training for the Nordic Junior World Ski Championships last week (Feb. 8-14) in Vuokatti and Lahti, Finland.

It was Gledhill’s first world junior event, and the first official competition of the season because most racing in Scandinavia has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. The men’s category included Under-20, U19 and U18 age groups. Gledhill was 39th fastest in the 10-kilometre skate interval, which translates into an 18th-place result for the U19 division.

“In the lead-up to the first race at worlds and while staying at the venue, every athlete had to get three COVID-19 tests,” he said by email. “One to enter Finland, one that had to be 48 hours before your first race, and one before departure.”

Gledhill was born in England — thus his selection last year to Great Britain’s national performance team — but learned how to ski with the Strathcona Nordics at Mount Washington after his family moved to the Valley. He entered his first race off Vancouver Island at age 11. From there, he started racing provincially and nationally, joined the B.C. Ski Team, and had his first taste of international racing last winter in the U.S. and in central Europe.

READ: Cumberland skier earns spot on British team

Gledhill lived in Edinburgh, Scotland at the start of his stint with the British team in October. The squad then relocated to Norway. He and his teammates have been based in Lillehammer since November.

During worlds, Norway decided to close its borders to non-citizens until Feb. 28. So the team decided to enter a few more races in Finland. They have driven south to the city of Jyvaskyla where the Finnish junior nationals are being held this weekend. By March, the team plans to be in Sweden for another competition.

Gledhill graduated from Mark Isfeld Secondary last year. He is taking online courses through Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. as he works toward a bachelor of science.

This season, he hopes to perform well enough to be selected to the G.B. Snowsport Elite Squad. His future goals include a top-20 result at the 2022 World Junior Championships in Zakopane, Poland.

“I also want to race a World Cup in the 2021/2022 season,” Gledhill said.

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