Ryan Jackson has been a Rundle Sport athlete since 2016 while living and training just North of Barrie, Ontario. Ryan now lives and trains in Asker, Norway, and races for Barrie Cross Country and Team Norconsult. Ryan is well known in Canada's ski community as Cross Country Canada's Athlete Director, a position he was elected to in 2017. Ryan is dedicated, extremely personable, and dreams of becoming Canada's top cross country racer. We asked Ryan some questions about his recent double hip surgery, his insights from Norway, and his experience racing back home at the 2017/2018 Canada Ski Nationals.
Hometown: Oro-Medonte, Ontario
Sponsors: Rundle Sport, Fischer, Swix, Optimum Performance Physiotherapy
Favorite race course: Nakkertok, Easterns 5km
Questions for Ryan
You moved to Norway last year and are going to live there again for the 2018/2019 season. What made you decide to live in Norway instead of racing back in Canada?
In 2016 my team and I spent a month in Norway training and racing. It really opened my eyes to a whole different level of competitive skiing. I learned more in that month than I had in multiple years of skiing. I believed (and still believe) that if I want to reach my potential I need to be in an environment where I am always learning and where there is constant pressure to improve.
What’s it like living in Norway?
There are a lot of Teslas, the roads are narrow, roundabouts are sweet, and food is expensive.
Do you think Canadian athletes training in Europe will be a growing trend?
I hope so! I believe that if you want to be the best you need to compete with the best. I think that once we prove that training and racing here in Norway will make us faster people will start to listen more diligently and take action. I think more important than the physical location switch is making people think more about what they need to get faster. Racers need to experience other ski cultures and to have the confidence to go there and learn.
At the same time, it’s important to keep building skiing in Canada. If all of Canada’s top racers take off around the world there will be no one left to grow the sport back home. Balance is necessary, but I’m not sure what the solution to obtain that balance is.
If you could change one thing about Canadian ski culture, what would it be?
Entitlement. I think as a community in Canada we believe we deserve to have a lot of opportunities given to us. Don’t get me wrong, the Canadian ski community works very hard, but I think there is a level, when it comes to competing against the best in the world, that we do not truly understand.
You flew back for the 2018 Canadian Nationals and did very well. What was that experience like and were you expecting the success you achieved?
Racing Nationals was a crazy experience. I knew I had gotten faster through the season, but I hadn’t raced any of my Canadian competitors for over a year. I wasn’t sure how I would stack up. I finished 3rd in the 50km Classic and 2nd in the Team Sprint with Scott Hill. Coming back and being right among the top Canadian racers was pretty exciting. It gives me a lot of confidence that I've chosen the right path.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from training and racing in Norway?
Understanding what you need to do as an individual to improve. There are so many different ways to become a great skier. Having the curiosity and confidence to find what path is right for you is super important.
You’ve had pain in your hips for several years and got a double hip surgery in May. How did the pain affect your training and racing? What did the surgery do and how is it supposed to help?
I’ve had pain in my core, groin, and legs stemming from my hips for the past 4 years. It would hold me back in some races and make day-to-day training difficult at times. My femoral necks were misshaped and would pinch the nerves through my hip joints whenever I’d engage my legs or core. For the surgery they dislocated both of my hips to shave down my femoral necks so they wouldn’t pinch the nerves anymore.
What is the recovery period for your surgery? How are you progressing so far?
The recovery period is typically 4-6 months, but in some cases it take up to a year. Since my surgery was bilateral (both hips) it will take a bit longer. Usually this surgery is only done one hip at a time. Progress was really slow for the first 3 months. I spent over 5 weeks in a wheelchair and another 6 weeks on crutches. I just started exercising lightly recently, but I am hoping to get back on a more regular routine throughout September. I just started roller skiing again which is a really exciting step forward.
What are your goals for next year?
My first goal is to make a full recovery. After that I am chasing a top 50 on the Norwegian and/or Scandinavian Cup, a Canadian Nationals title, and to race for Canada at World Cup Finals in Quebec City.
You did a video with Rundle Sport around this time last year. What was it like being in front of the camera?
It was a really cool experience. As an xc skier, life is usually pretty isolated. Train, work, train, sleep, repeat. The only media we get is during the race season, so my peers and people watching only really see 1% of what I am doing. Having the opportunity to share a small piece of the work I put in behind the scenes was pretty special.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you with your racing?
My parents. They introduced me to an active lifestyle, and fully supported me when I chose to take it to the competitive level. And they are just awesome.
Coach Ron and my teammates. Always pushing me to become a better athlete and person.
My sponsors, Rundle Sport, Fischer, Swix, and Optimum Performance Physiotherapy. Having the best equipment and support gives me so much confidence while training and racing. I can just focus on what I need to do as an athlete to improve.
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