Cross-country skier Alex Harvey has come a long way from being known as the son of a legendary Quebec athlete.
Harvey’s father Pierre, a member of the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame, received many accolades during his career. Now Alex Harvey is in the spotlight as he heads to his second Olympics.
Four years after finishing fourth in the team sprint with Devon Kershaw at the Vancouver Games, the 25-year-old Harvey doesn’t hide his belief that he is ripe for an Olympic medal. It would be a historic first for a Canadian man in cross-country skiing.
He and Kershaw became world champions in the team sprint the year after Vancouver, Harvey noted.
“We’ve established ourselves,” Harvey said. “In Sochi, the goal is to validate our place on the international scene. For me, that’s on the podium.”
The bronze medallist in the individual sprint at the 2013 world championship isn’t worried he’s setting the bar high.
“The pressure doesn’t affect me at all,” Harvey said. “The pressure from the outside world will never equal what I put on myself. Expectations will be high in Sochi. I have no problem with that.”
Harvey has built a reputation for doing well during major events after winning medals in two consecutive years at the world junior championships.
“Alex is very strong at important events,” said his coach Louis Bouchard. “It’s fun to watch him develop. He’s got a lot of passion, he’s a real professional who perfectly understands what he has to do to get to the top of his sport.
“He’s a world-class athlete. Above all, he loves to ski as fast as possible.”
Harvey is well aware of how he’s matured physically during the last four years.
“Physically, I see a big difference,” he said. “My body recovers faster so I can absorb a lot. We’ve attended several camps at altitude, maybe five camps per year. It was very beneficial.”
Nothing has been left to chance since Harvey started his final preparations on May 1, 2013. Each segment of his training has been carefully mapped out.
“I know what aspects I will work on until the day before my competition in Sochi,” he said.
Harvey will have a family connection when he goes to Sochi – his mother Mireille Belzile is a doctor with the Canadian ski team.
It is not her first Olympics either. Belzile was part of the Canadian Olympic Committee medical staff in the 1990s, until 2002 in Salt Lake City. She joined the Canadian cross-country ski team at the World Championships last year.
It is said that mother and son share a lot of the same personality traits, such as a serious approach to things.
“My mother has a reputation for not taking detours and getting straight to the point,” Harvey said.
“When a patient comes into her office, she identifies the problem after posing three questions and the fourth thing she tells them is what to do about it. She knows where she’s going and she’s got confidence in her abilities. She doesn’t let people run over her. I’m a bit like that.”
Belzile was an accomplished cyclist, triathlete and skier before studying medicine in university. She remains active despite her busy schedule and Harvey credits her with a big impact on his life.
“My mother was always there for my two sisters and me at home,” recalled Harvey, who is the eldest in the family. “She was a good influence on me as an athlete, considering my health. She impressed on me the importance of recovery and good nutrition. I was taught about these things since I was young.”
He figures that this framework, combined with his family genes and the passion he’s had since he was a toddler, possibly allowed him to reach his potential earlier than many of the global elite in his sport.
A handyman around the house he shares with his girlfriend, Harvey has developed a keen interest in surfing although he says he’s not very good at it. He took up the sport to unwind from each ski season with a holiday by the sea.
Harvey is midway through his legal training at university as he slips on his skis for another Olympics. He doesn’t rule out a few more after this one.