Shayla Swanson

Shayla Swanson struck the motherlode at last month’s national cross-country skiing championships.

The 18-year-old University of Calgary student came away from the event with four gold medals, winning the 10km classic and combined pursuit, the sprint, and the 7.5km classic races in the junior girls category.

The gold medals put Swanson well on the way to her goal, a berth on the Canadian Olympic team.

"It would be really great to make the Olympics someday, or the World Cup circuit."

Salt Lake City, in 2002, might be a little too close for the skier, but the following games are a reasonable aim.

"Maybe 2006," she suggests. "The peak age for skiers is a little bit later than for other sports."

At the age of three, Swanson was introduced to cross-country skiing by her parents. When she was seven, she joined the Foothills Nordic Ski Club Jackrabbit program, and started racing. Her reasons for sticking to the sport are many.

"Part of it is the people you get to be around," she explained. "It’s tough and demanding, but there are lots of rewards."

One of those rewards is travel. Cross-country skiing has allowed Swanson to travel across Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, as well as to France and Italy.

Swanson is currently classified as a visiting student at the U of C, although she isn’t taking any courses this semester in order to concentrate on training at the Canmore Nordic Centre. She plans to return to school in the fall, although she’s not sure what degree she wants.

"I don’t have any clue," she confessed, adding that she is taking general science courses.

Aside from her academic pursuits, Swanson is also tied to the U of C through the National Sport Centre Calgary. Her name can be added to the long list of NSCC success stories.

Canada may not have a history of success in international cross-country skiing, but Swanson represents some hope for the future. Watch for her star to rise over the next half dozen years.

"As long as it’s fun, I’ll pursue my goals."

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