Frigid temperatures affect 5km freestyle

Jonathan Parsons
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Skiers showed fortitude in cold conditions

The mass starts of the 5 kilometre freestyle events were postponed on Tuesday. The temperature was too low for skiers to safely compete.

The magic number was -15 degrees Celsius. It had to be warmer than that temperature to reduce risk of hypothermia and breathing difficulties. There was also a very strong winter wind that didn’t help matters.

The races were initially supposed to begin at 9:30 a.m. for the males and 10:15 a.m. for the females.  With temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius, they were postponed to 10 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. respectively and then again to 10:30 a.m. and 10:40 a.m.

By this time, it was deemed by race officials to be safe for athletes to ski.

Colin Fowlow of Western region is a cross-country skier from Corner Brook who won the 1 kilometre sprint event. He tells The Packet that skiers wear duct tape and Vaseline on their faces to beat the cold.

“The duct tape is so you don’t get frostbite on your cheeks and nose and stuff.”

He says that he understands why there are limitations to ski under certain temperatures.

“If (the temperature) is so low, we’re just not allowed to race because it’s hard on your lungs when you’re exercising in this kind of temperature.”

The medalists for the race included Jake Taylor of Avalon taking the gold, and Robert Manstan and Devon Ryan of Labrador taking silver and bronze respectively.

Makaila Hudson of Labrador won gold, Marie Manstan, also of Labrador, won silver and Emma Taylor of St. John’s North won bronze.

For the team from Labrador, who performed very well at the Games thus far, the delays were a race against time. They had to fly back north later that day.

Coach Elizabeth Rose of Labrador tells The Packet, “We are used to the cold, but today we’re supposed to catch a flight, catch a bus, so that’s how it’s affecting our race today with the delays we have to do a lot of rescheduling.”

The other coach for Labrador, Allan Bock, says they understand first hand, being from Labrador, why the temperature is a cause for concern.

“When you have a day like today, safety is the first consideration. Hats off to the race organizers for keeping safety in mind…We applaud them for that.”

The two coaches spoke of how much their skiers enjoyed the Games.

Bock says, “The kids had a whale of a time. They really enjoyed themselves…The volunteers have done great, everything has gone well. You can’t control the weather and even though it’s a bright sunny day, the wind is the issue, the biting wind.”

As they spoke, one of their skiers, Alyson Thomas of L’Anse-au-Clair, whose pace was supposed to be later, crossed the finish line well ahead of expectations, in eighth place.

They celebrated heartily on the blustery day.

One more surprise in a day full of them.

Geographic location: Labrador, Western, Corner Brook

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