The Athlete, the Coach and the Bucket List

June 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Provincial and Territorial News

THEN – Slave Lake Journal

The Athlete, the Coach and the Bucket List
Some time ago, Fraser Oliver asked me to share a story about my daughter, Sarah, for our website. Both Sarah and Mike Argue, also mentioned in the article, greatly benefited from the opportunity to participate in many NWT school sports in their formative athletic years. Dedicated coaches like you aided them tremendously. Both Juneva Green and Ann Jones, mentioned in the piece, are retired teachers. This article first appeared in the “Slave River Journal”.
– Richard Daitch, Executive Director, NWTSAF
The Athlete, the Coach and the Bucket List
A few days before her first World Cup race in Canmore, Alberta, cross-country skier Sarah Daitch, her coach John Jaques and his wife Carol saw a film called ‘The Bucket List”. The movie is about two men with terminal illnesses who make a list of things that they want to do before they “kick the bucket”. After the film, Coach Jaques announced, “Number one on my bucket list is to have one of my skiers finish in the top 30 in a World Cup race.” On January 26, Sarah placed an astonishing 19th in a competition against the world’s best sprinters from 21 nations. On February 24, Sarah anchored the Canadian relay team, which included Sara Renner, Chandra Crawford and Madeleine Williams to 10th -place in a World Cup race in Falun, Sweden.
Whether it is at the initial learning stages or on an international stage, a coach like a good teacher is essential to the development of an athlete. Juneva Green and Ann Jones were instrumental in sharing the joy of skiing with Sarah and hundreds of Fort Smith youngsters. Former NWT coach, Mike Neary, and others helped develop Daitch’s skills. Then along came Coach Jaques.
John Jaques, who also trains Yellowknife’s Mike Argue, who had a spectacular race at the Kananaskis Ski Marathon on February 23 finishing second, is well suited to these northern athletes. Both Argue and Daitch won medals at the Canada Winter Games under his guidance.
The coach’s goals are long range and he would rather unwell athletics skip a race or two, rather than put their heath in jeopardy. Under Jaques, Sarah has thrived qualifying to represent Canada the World Under-23s, World University Games and currently in World Cup races in Estonia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Jacques is an inventive coach whose athletes run in road races, kayak, ride mountain bikes, lift weights and do a variety of both conventional and off beat activities. For the last two seasons, Jaques has ridden a bike down the streets of Canmore giving direction to Sarah while she has worked on her double poling technique on hot summer days. They probably looked like an odd couple, but the results have been significant. On Wednesday, her qualifying time in the Stockholm World Cup Classic Sprint was 2:42, by far her fastest classic time. She credits improved double poling process to her sprinting success.
Sometimes competition is harder on the coach than the athlete. The day before Sarah’s big race in Canmore, Jaques had a sleepless night, worrying about waxes, popping up periodically to check on changing weather conditions and generally being concerned about how his athlete would perform on such a big stage. In the end, the coach and athlete produced an outstanding result.
Last Sunday, in a star-studded field, Daitch skied her five-kilometre leg 17:31.3 ensuring a top 10 finish for the Canadian ladies. She is becoming more comfortable on the World Cup circuit with its larger crowds, increased pressure and varying conditions. The opportunity of multi-country European tour, however, meant that she had to leave Coach Jaques behind. So while Sarah is touring Europe, Jaques is in Canmore attending to the needs of his many other racers. At last sighting, the athlete was on her way to Finland for a major sprint race, while the coach was making a new bucket list.
Relay teammates Sara Renner, Chandra Crawford and Sarah Daitch. Renner and Crawford are Olympic medalists. 

NOW –  June 17, 2016 Slave River Journal

Sarah Daitch’s long and winding road

I recently visited my daughter Sarah Daitch and found her in remarkably good spirits, despite the disappointment of being ill at the Olympic trials and not being able to perform at her best. Sarah has missed a lot of training time during the past year, due to surgery on her legs and a severe bout of esophagitis, an inflammation of the esophagus which was brought on by over training. As a consequence, she has not had time to build up the base level of training required to compete consistently at the elite level.

It’s been a challenging adjustment for her. “When things were going well, I couldn’t imagine not continuing to improve,” she reflected. “Now I am adjusting to the fact that getting back to top form is a long process.” Recently, she had an encouraging result with a podium finish at a Super Tour event in Winthrop, Washington. She won the B-final and her stamina was reasonably good. But the recovery time after each event has been much longer than when she was in perfect health.

Aside from her training, Sarah keeps busy with volunteer work. Recently, she gave motivational presentations to a group of employees of a major Alberta corporation and a female volleyball team from Red Deer. She is also the liaison between the Fast and Female organization in Canmore and the Yellowknife committee, which is hard at work planning an event for young woman. Sarah is committed to volunteerism. Last year when she was too ill to participate in a World Cup race, she volunteered to help out with the event. She was assigned to work with a group of older woman, and the ladies were impressed with her good nature and zeal, despite her disappointment of not being able to race. This year she, along with her long time friend, Mike Argue, has qualified for this race. The event will include 200 competitors from 25 countries. This will be Sarah’s ninth World Cup event.

During my visit, it was apparent that she is a part of the national skiing community. Two of the Canadian Olympians phoned Sarah to invite her to work out with them. Chandra Crawford called to talk at length about Fast and Female. Patti-Kay Hamilton phoned from Yellowknife to set up a CBC North interview. Despite her frenetic pace, Sarah managed to squeeze in preparing a birthday dinner, replete with cake and candles, for dear old dad.

Two years ago her Mom and I watched Sarah’s best race ever, when she finished 19th in a World Cup race. She was only three spots behind Olympic silver medal winner Sarah Renner and surprised all the experts. But what impressed us most was that, after the snow had settled, she took the time to thank many of the volunteers.

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