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Welsh Para Athlete Russ White on the Podium in European Championships

February 2, 2017

Russ White is a Para-Athlete, a right arm amputee who has represented GB in Para-cycling and Para-triathlon up to World Championship level. He completed his first ever Nordic races in January after a busy 14 months learning how to rollerski, including 2 weeks learning to ski properly on snow in Finland and Norway.

At the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Event held in Ukraine on the 13th – 20th January 2017, he raced the 10km Middle Distance Classic, 1.5 Freestyle Sprint, 7.5km Sprint Biathlon and 12.5km Middle Distance biathlon races. Up against the world’s best as a relative novice on snow he finished near the bottom of the fields as expected but with more experience and time refining his techniques he will only become faster and more efficient racer. 

He also raced to the Bronze medal at the Winter Cross Triathlon European Championship held in Estonia on the 28th January, the epic race consists of a run section, a mountain bike section and a cross country ski to finish.

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We caught up with Russ and asked him about his Nordic journey so far...

"As a complete novice to racing on snow, January 2017 held a certain amount of trepidation and excitement for me. Whilst I’ve a lot of successful experience racing traditionally summer events (cycling, para-cycling, para-duathlon and para-triathlon) this is the start of a total new sporting arena for me.

What follows is a little bit of the journey I have undertaken to get myself to the point where I felt comfortable enough to race on snow.

I started rollerskiing in August 2015, learning very quickly that this is not about fitness but patience, skill and balance. I took tuition from the excellent instructors at rollerski.co.uk that has admittedly helped a considerable amount. I also raced a little in in the GB Rollerski Race 2015 series trying to set a benchmark to build on, completing a novice 3km race, a 10km time trial and a four hour distance event. These races are very well run, everyone should do them as they cater for the novice through to full on fast racers, and the inclusive and friendly atmosphere of this series is brilliant. 

I continued training and racing on rollerski’s throughout 2016, training/finding venues close to me (you can see me regularly at Bryn Bach Park and several parts of the National Cycling Network around Pontypool!) and also again racing in the GB Rollerski race series improving on my results from last year. I have also had week long trips to Yllas, Finland and to Sjusjoen, Norway in 2016 to apply myself on snow and to gain some snow experience.

On to January 2017, I was given the opportunity to race as a civilian guest alongside the Nordic division of the Armed Forces Parasnowsport Team (AFSPT) at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup event which was held in Ukraine 13-20th January. This primarily is so that I could see where I am with regards to the other athletes. The Ukraine Winter Parasports Rehabilitation Centre was an excellent facility, though very challenging for a relative novice. The fact that there is currently no feeder league/series of races meant that I was racing the world’s very best athletes, coupled with the information given by the Ukrainian Sports Minister that said they had selected the hardest course ever for the World Cup event - no need to be nervous then!

I raced in the 10km Classic, 1.5km Freestyle Sprint, 7.5km Sprint Biathlon and the 12.5km Sprint Biathlon races.

Whilst I was near the bottom of the 25 athlete fields in the races it provided me with a very good indication of what I need to do next. Technique is everything...and my uphill V3 technique, when compared to the best in the world is very poor, especially on a 2.5km loop with 96 metres of vertical climbing! Snow experience counts for a lot too, so I'll have to spend more of my time on snow. My shooting in the biathlon events however gave me a lot of confidence, considering I was using a borrowed right handed rifle (I’ve only got my left arm), even managing a clear round in the 12.5km event. There is a lot more to come with a bit of time and practice, a lot of practice on hills!

Then it was on to an event where I felt a little more in my comfort zone with the Winter Triathlon Cross European Championship held in Otepaa, Estonia on the 28th January. The format of this race is a 3km hilly run, followed by 7.5km mountain bike and then finished off with a 4km hilly cross country ski. Very intense and short but a lot of fun which resulted in a podium and bronze."

We'll keep you up to date with how Russ' season develops. We're currently trying to establish and develop Nordic skiing in Wales. If you have any information that could help us with that please do not hesitate to get in touch!

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