Devon Kershaw has spent the better part of his young life dreaming about being an Olympian, and for the past 14 years, he has been diligently preparing for it.
For the second time, the 27-year-old, all-round cross-country skier has an opportunity to make that dream come true.
Kershaw, who was born and raised in Sudbury, will be skiing the gamut at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, competing in four cross-country events, including the 30-km pursuit, the team sprint, the 4x10-km relay and the 50-km classic mass start.
This will be the second go at the Olympics for the young athlete, who made his Olympic debut in Torino, Italy.
Competing in four events at the 2006 Games, Kershaw impressed with a first-place finish in the opening leg of the Olympic relay. However, he went home empty-handed, marking two 11th-place finishes, and a 37th and 47th place finish. “I know what the whole show is about now,” he said. “Torino was my experience games.”
He has set some different goals this time around.
“I’ve hit the podium a few times on the World Cup before, so I know if I am truly in my best-ever form, then medals are possible. It’s all about being prepared to the best of my abilities.”
The 27-year-old skier said he is considered young to be an Olympic champion in his sport.
“Being an endurance sport, it take many years to mature to be a ‘favourite.’ This sport sees a vast majority of its champions over 30 years of age.”
Because of the international depth of cross-country skiing, Kershaw said “there will be no contender for the podium who I haven’t competed against already numerous times on the international racing scene. I know exactly who the favorites are, where they are from, and a lot of them are friends.”
Kershaw began his cross-country skiing career with the Laurentian Nordic Junior Racing program when he was 12 years old. While he has been “officially” training in the sport for the past 14 years, he said cross-country skiing has always been a big part of his family’s life.
“The story goes — I took some of my first steps with skis strapped to my feet,” he said.
“As we all grew up — my younger sister Linnaea and younger brother Sean and I — and got more and more involved at the local club level, we would race more and more often, my parents included,” he continued.
“So, aside from doing the sport my whole life, the interest in racing competitively was sparked once I started racing. I was good at it, I would win races, and I got hooked. Simple as that.”
Kershaw left Sudbury at 18, after graduating from Lockerby Composite, to head to Canmore, Alta. to become part of the Canadian National ski team.
Above physical ability, the Sudbury skier said drive and determination are key components to making it to the elite level. “Those last few kilometers of a race when you feel as though your legs are lead and there’s just not enough oxygen in the atmosphere for you to make it to the line — you need to have serious determination to overcome that and finish strong.”
He said having confidence and humility are equally important for an athlete.
“I always believed that I could be an Olympian, ever since I could remember. There have been plenty of races where I wasn’t 100 per cent at the start line, but I was so confident in my preparation and ability to achieve my goals, that it seems now, looking back, that only confidence alone allowed me to succeed.”
And like any elite athlete, Kershaw said he has failed more than he has succeeded on his way to the top. “Humility is so important,” he said. “I have lost far more races than I have won, but it’s all part of the process, it’s all part of getting better.
“Learning how to lose and how to win is so crucial. Winning is fun, but be respectful when you do. Losing is rough, but if you take nothing from that your chances of losing again are greatly increased.”
Kershaw said representing Sudbury on the international stage will be a tribute to the town that made his Olympic dreams attainable.
“Sudbury was the foundation in which all my athletic achievements began. Sudbury is full of enthusiastic, passionate and athletic people. We have great volunteers that allow kids, like me, to partake in a plethora of programs, clubs and groups throughout the city, and they are the building blocks to any kid’s Olympic dreams.”
Devon Kershaw's Olympic Schedule
Feb. 20, at 1:30 p.m. - Men's 30 km pursuit (15 classic + 15 free)
Feb. 22, at 11:35 a.m. - Men's team sprint free
Feb. 24, at 11:15 a.m. - Men's 4x10 km relay classic/free
Feb. 28, at 9:30 a.m. - 50 km mass start classic