Nathaniel Mah is Canada's only Nordic Combined athlete and an Olympic hopeful for 2018. The 2016/2017 season saw his return to competition after a long recovery from a concussion suffered while road cycling. Nathaniel is a hardworking, dedicated, down-to-earth athlete that Rundle Sport has been proud to sponsor for the last 2 years. Nathaniel discusses his return from injury, rock climbing, and the state of Nordic Combined in Canada.
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Sponsors: Rossignol, Rundle Sport, START Ski Wax, Xact Nutrition
Height: 167 cm
Weight: 59 kg
Favorite race course: Planica Slovenia 2.5km
Questions for Nathaniel
The 2016/2017 season saw you return from a big injury. Can you tell us about the injury and the process of returning to competition?
The injury was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever gone through. While road biking in Steamboat Springs CO I fell and hit my head. I had concussion symptoms for about 4 months, and then had constant headaches and balance problems. It felt like I was on a boat. The headaches and dizziness continued for about 18 months. The return from injury was gradual, and some days I felt a hopeless. The experience has truly made me a lot more grateful for when I am healthy and able to compete, as well as showing me a different kind of pain that I believe made me able to tolerate a lot more pain while skiing. My first competition back this season was difficult. I think it was the most nervous I had ever been going into a competition, but at the end of the day I was just happy to had finally competed after such a long time.
You’re a Nordic combined athlete. Most people could never imagine jumping the distances you do. What are you thinking about at the top of the ramp?
During training, I'm usually thinking about what technique I'm working on. I try to focus on one or two key things and try to simplify them. On the jump everything happens so fast that if you try to fix everything at once you end up making no progress.
Are you ever scared before a jump?
Not as much now that I've been doing this for so long, but there are still days that I get scared. If the weather is bad or the wind isn't cooperating some fears do come up.
What’s it like flying through the air for that long?
When you have a good jump its like no other feeling. You can feel the pressure on your skis and are essentially just trying to stay relaxed and pull away from the hill. It's one of the most amazing experiences out there.
How would you describe your skiing style?
I try to keep a very fast tempo while keeping it smooth, I'm a small guy so I try to play to my strengths.
Rock climbing is one of the sports you like to do outside of skiing. What do you like about climbing and how does it compare to skiing?
The nice thing about climbing is its a full body workout similar to cross country skiing. The other thing is the amount of technique and mental focus, similar to jumping. You could be the strongest person in the world, but without technique there is no way you could get up that wall.
What are your goals for next year?
The Main goal for next season is to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in Korea. For that I'll need to get a top 30 in a world cup event. I'm feeling good after last winter so I know that there is a chance!
There don’t seem to be a lot of Nordic combined athletes in Canada. How would you describe the state of Nordic Combined as a sport in Canada?
Well, its just me…. so overall the state is pretty much as bad as it could be. We have 1 or 2 kids who are around 13 coming up, but keeping the small hills at Winsport Olympic park open is a challenge every season. During winter we're no longer able to train on the k90, which is one of the sizes of hills we compete on. Winsport also decided to close the cross country course this winter, so for the younger athletes it's difficult for them to drive out to Canmore to train after school. That's why I spend most of my training time in facilities outside of Canada. I still like to think that there is a hope for the sport in Canada, but the best way to gain support and interest is through results. The best thing I can do is to stay optimistic and train hard.
Who would win in a race, you or your dog Oliver?
In a foot race? Oliver. But give me some skis and we will see!
Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you with your racing?
My parents of course, right now they’re supporting me both financially and as parents do. I couldn’t do this without them and there's no way I would be where I am now without them. I owe them a lot and I appreciate everything they have done for me!