Project Lillehammer is a centralised elite level Nordic programme supported by GB Snowsport that assists athletes coming through the home nation pathways. The project is based at a centre of excellence in Lillehammer, Norway. The selected athletes have access to increased coaching hours as well as national and international competitions on the doorstep. GB Snowsport have supported two Snowsport England athletes through the project, William, and Matthew.
The journey of these two young sportsmen from complete Nordic beginner to international athlete has been remarkably fast. The pair profess a huge enjoyment of the sport, something that is inspiring to all. They started the sport, thinking it would be something different to try, but their lasting personal investment is due to the love of the sport! Although both had different journeys into Nordic, the importance of our local roller ski clubs dotted across England has never been more crucial for potential athlete identification.
Matthew, an ex-long distance endurance runner who has a love for snow, married the two interests together to find Nordic skiing. In the young athletes’ cases, Nordic skiing refers to roller skiing and cross-country skiing. He explained how he had taken part in the British Biathlon Union and GB Snowsport Talent ID program in 2021, where he was able to attend camps across all the home nations to learn how to roller ski proficiently. As he was based in Bath for university, Matthew was a regular of Wessex Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club. Later that Winter he was chosen to coach the Infantry Nordic team for about a month in Idre, Sweden. However, his hopes to start racing were dashed with COVID cancelling all competitions.
With a strong desire to race, Matthew, went to Prince George, Canada with a grant from the International Biathlon Union to train in the Summer of 2022 for the next Winter season. Remarkably within one year of starting the sport, Matthew raced in his first FIS competitions in 2023. The season was mixed with difficult snow conditions, but with FIS points of just over 200, he made an impressive start to racing on the international circuit. What is clear to see is his determination to continue to train harder for next year. The main goal for Matthew is a top 50 result in the World under 23 championships in Planica.
William, on the other hand, being half Norwegian, started cross country skiing at a young age. However, it wasn’t until 2017, that his family saw a group training near his home in Bracknell. Before starting her role with Snowsport England, our participation officer, Steph ran the training group at 2 sites in Bracknell, with a group of keen participants. She taught William the basics of roller skiing, before he was talent spotted to join the British Nordic Development squad (BNDS) post covid. In between training with the BNDS, William also took part in roller ski sessions with London Region Nordic Ski Club (LRNSC) at Hillingdon cycle circuit. Like Matthew, William took the step to international racing in the 22/23 season following several GB Series roller ski races at Hillingdon. William’s best FIS points were around 270 this season, a great start. William has big goals, to improve his FIS scores next season. He is planning to balance university and travelling over to Lillehammer to continue to his racing journey!
Both athletes have come a long way in such a short space of time, credit has to go to the local roller ski clubs in England as well as Project Lillehammer. We look forward to watching them grow, whilst enjoying the training journey. We wish both athletes the best of luck next season.
To find out more about how to get into roller skiing, please visit- https://www.snowsportengland.org.uk/get-involved/nordic/
Snowsport England have several Nordic clubs across the country, to find out more please visit their websites-
Yorkshire Dales Cross Country Ski Club https://ydccsc.org.uk/
Tyneside Loipers http://tynesideloipers.org.uk/
London Region Nordic Ski Club https://londonnordic.org.uk/
Wessex Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club http://www.wessexbiathlon.org/
Manchester Cross Country Ski Club https://www.mccsc.org.uk/
Lakeland Cross Country Ski Club http://lxcsc.blogspot.com/