Justin Wadsworth didn't need a lot of convincing when the call came asking him if he was interested in the job. But as a refresher, he thought back to the 2010 Winter Olympics and how impressed he was by Canada's cross-country skiers, their grit, their desire, their nine top-10 finishes.
"They were pulling it out day after day," Wadsworth recalled.
And now Cross-country Canada was on the line asking Wadsworth if he was keen to become the head coach? It didn't take long for the 41-year-old former U.S. skier, coach and the husband of Canadian Olympic gold medalist Beckie Scott to say yes, "Can I start now?" "I told Beckie, 'You don't get a chance to coach talent like Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, Chandra Crawford, Ivan Babikov and George Grey,'" said Wadsworth, who was contacted last month and officially hired yesterday. "They're a super-talented group of athletes. The basics are all there and they're looking for just a little bit more. That's the fun part; to tweak things just that little bit."
Wadsworth, a four-time U.S. champion and a three-time Olympian, is no stranger to the Canadian team. As a coach with the American cross-country team, he has worked alongside many of the Canadians on the World Cup circuit. He's also forged friendships and associations through his wife, who retired after winning a silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
In Whistler, during the 2010 Games, Scott was a television commentator for cross-country skiing while Wadsworth did his best to get the Americans to the medal podium. What inspired Wadsworth was watching the Canadians ski their hearts out when it mattered most.
"It made an impact on our team. Even before the Olympics, Sara Renner was third (at a World Cup race) in Canmore," said Wadsworth. "That was a real selling point for me. It's an individual sport but if you don't have team dynamics you can have a poor result and it will shake a team apart. But if you have a strong team, good results inspire everyone."
Wadsworth replaces Inge Braten, who said during the Whistler Olympics he was anxious to return to his native Norway. Asked to explain how he hoped to get that little bit more from Canada's skiers, Wadsworth spoke of an athletes-first approach.
"I want to bring everything I have to the athletes. When I was coaching Beckie, her last couple of seasons we focused on what it takes to go from being close to the World Cup podium to being there on a consistent basis," he said. "I want to take care of the athletes' needs but they have to work for it."