July 4, 2019
Canmore, AB – As summer settles in across the province, we connected with two Alberta Ski Team alumni athletes – Liam Wallace (Sunshine) and Keegan Sharp (Panorama) – for a question and answer session following their successful qualification for the 2019/20 Canadian Alpine C-Team.
Wallace, a member of the NCAA University of Alaska Seawolves Ski Team, chose at this time to respectfully decline the nomination to the team, and continue to focus his attention on his studies.
When asked to comment, NCAA Seawolves Head Coach Sparky Anderson had this to say of Liam and his first season with Alaska:
“First off, bringing Liam to Alaska was a big win for our program. I had seen him compete over the years and knew that he was one result away from igniting a breakout season. I just hoped it would take place in Alaska and not someplace else. Liam is such a cerebral kid, and I think he really connected with our program – being a student and an athlete at the same time. We did some different things with regard to training and it was always nice to bounce ideas off one another. I think when trust is the binding factor in a coach-athlete relationship you open up a world of possibilities. Ultimately things clicked and Liam was literally off to races. He’s such a natural talent. As much as it is a privilege to watch him ski, he’s an even nicer kid to coach. I’m looking forward to Liam returning with his team this fall.”
Meanwhile, Sharp, who has displayed incredible perseverance through injuries, is excited to have been accepted to join the NCAA University of Colorado (Boulder) Buffaloes Ski Team. We wish Keegan all the best in his freshman year with Boulder, and look forward to hearing many deserving accolades from his coaches and teammates!
Keegan’s father and long-time coach Mark Sharp commented on his season:
“I’m happy for Keegan to have achieved results this season proved the level he can ski at. It was nice to see the confirmation in his smile. He has had a tough FIS journey, with two big stalling injuries that never really let him find his stride. It was a good comeback year to end up as one of north Americas top SL skiers at the NorAms.”
We are incredibly admirable of the dedication these young men have shown to the sport of alpine ski racing, and we look forward to connecting with them throughout, what will surely be, a successful upcoming ski season for them both!
Stay tuned for more ‘where are they now’ alumni articles this summer!
Happy Stampede! YAHOO!
We begin with Mr. Wallace:
Q: Scotty (your dad) mentioned that following your first semester you were rocking a 4.0 GPA. Are you still maintaining that GPA and how were you able to manage athletics and academics at such a high level?
I have not chosen a major yet, so being an open study allowed me to choose courses that I really enjoy and was interested in learning. I wanted to take courses that contained topics that were of interest to me. This made it easier to retain information and therefore stay up to date with what needs to be done in my classes. The busy part of the ski season was actually helpful for my learning. I felt very busy between the school and the skiing I did, but coming up with a balanced routine made things more than manageable. We will see how things go when I am in more challenging classes down the road. I got a 3.8 GPA second semester.
Q: During the season you lowered your FIS points significantly and are currently ranked 2nd in the World for your age in both GS and SL moving up from 15th in SL and 37th in GS. Some critics didn’t think this was a possibility as a student up in Alaska where training can be a challenge. What made this possible for you and what are your goals for the 2019-20 season?
This season gave me a new and exciting approach to the sport through school. I was exposed to much more than just competitive ski environments. Finding a well-rounded program that had multiple competitive ski circuits, venues, and races, gave me my shots for success. While my school and outdoor lifestyle in Alaska kept me happy and progressing in other areas of my life. Skiing less actually kept me fresh and optimistic about getting work done on the hill in a shorter period of time. I firmly believe that a balance in skiing, as well as other things in my life, kept me motivated. Racing is a yearly commitment on a provincial and National level where you need to give 100% for the on-snow season and most of the summer months. Of course, the more time on snow will ensure the highest chance of success, but college racing gives a little more space to pursue other areas of my life where I can still make the most of my time on skis.
Q: What has being an NCAA athlete meant to you?
I went this route because it looked extremely enjoyable. NCAA seemed like it made everyone stoked on skiing. The ability to compete on this circuit is very rewarding and humbling, to say the least. You feel exposure in all sorts of new ways. I enjoyed seeing the NCAA championships for the first time and spending time at home with the team the most. It helps to be in a cool place with such a supportive team trying to prove itself every year. Everyone is friendly and my team environment provides a solid work dynamic where we are all on the same page.
Q: What is the biggest difference being a part of an NCAA team vs a club or provincial team?
New responsibilities came with skiing on the NCAA circuit. Your school is ranked on how well you do as a team collectively. A group sharing the same goal was not a normal thing for me while racing. In the past, I always had teammates with different goals and trajectories. I felt less anxious about my results back on the Canadian circuit because they only impacted me, rather than my entire team. This season I once again found myself viewing races as opportunities rather than do or die situations. NCAA gives you what you need to progress, but being a well-rounded student-athlete is hard work. Less influence from organizations can be a blessing but was a big responsibility. Learning from people high in the provincial and national team ranks was essential because they know what it takes to progress young skiers. Having experiences with these talented people gets you in tune with what your goals are and show you what kind of work high-performance ski racing entails. Without as much guidance, I needed to be able to take more of the work and responsibility into my own hands.
Q: If you could give your 14-year-old self one piece of advice about ski racing, what would that be?
Keep yourself open to all approaches to the sport. Coaches, other athletes, and my own alike. SImply learn from every approach and through them, find a way to translate that to your feet. Shake off the bad days where you feel frustrated and confused on ski topics and view them instead as a blessing for enhanced success in the future.
Q: Will we see you represent Canada at the World Junior Championships this coming season in Norway?
I will gladly attend them when, and if the opportunity presents itself! Only time will tell but I believe it should all work out.
Anything else you’d like to add please enter it here:
Q: What would you tell younger upcoming athletes:
You are your greatest ski coach. Take all forms of advice, but put them into your own words. Expose yourself, no matter how – never do the same thing day after day or even run to run.
And now, Mr. Sharp:
Q: You’ve battled through quite a comeback. Can you tell us a little bit about your injury and speak to aspiring ski racers about the perseverance required to make the breakthrough that you made this year?
During the 2016/2017 season I was struggling with lower back issues and severe sciatic pain, I literally couldn’t move my right leg or get my hands past my knees. After the season ended I tried every possible thing there was to avoid surgery but unfortunately, nothing worked. So instead of prepping for the season-opening races in December of 2017, I was having an operation on my back.
It was probably the longest winter of my life, laying in bed hearing all the stories, watching my friends on live timing, and listening to my mum brag about powder skiing. Saying it was hard is an understatement. One thing that really helped me though was enrolling in some online college courses, I found it pretty much totally distracted me from the real world. It made it a lot easier to literally live one day at a time and not worry about my future. Of course, I was still possessed with the thoughts and goals to get back on snow, there were days where that’s all I thought about. I made sure though to keep myself in check and live in my current reality because that way I knew everything would be done correctly and I’d get right back to where I wanted to be.
Looking back and reflecting on that 14-month segment of no racing its kinda crazy how much I actually learned about myself and new skills I was able to bring to skiing. In a weird way, it was a bit of a blessing in disguise. The biggest thing that I came out with was patience and acceptance. These two attributes really brought a new kind of calmness to my training and racing which allowed me to get to another level and where I am today. Really, it was an “I don’t give a $#!t” kind of attitude, in the most professional way possible and for myself it was just what I needed since I have the tendencies to overanalyse at times. It was quite fun this year exploring that within myself and it really helped me get close to the big goals that I set for the season. I didn’t accomplish them all but with a full and pain-free season behind me now I can continue on with my new tricks and push even further.
Q: How does it feel to be named to the National C-Team?
It’s a nice feeling for sure to know that all my hard work has been recognised. Really it just more of an incentive for myself to push even further.
Q: What does the 2019-20 season have in store for you?
2019/2020 is lining up to be an exciting one. Along with being named to the national team, I will be a full-time NCAA student/racer with the University of Colorado Boulder. It was a super exciting opportunity which I couldn’t resist as I will still be able to chase my dreams as a ski racer and get a degree on top of it. I can’t wait to get down there and start my next chapter.
Q: Your father Mark has been your coach for most of your career. What does it mean to have him in your corner on and off the slopes and how much do you talk about ski racing at home?
Honestly, I love it. Sure there can be some tough times because we can piss each other off either on the slopes or at home, but at the end of the day, it’s great. I’ve also had the privilege of working with several fantastic coaches alongside my dad throughout my career from when I joined Team Pano to now. The thing that makes working with my dad different is that on any given day he knows exactly how I am feeling physically or mentally and that really helps in how we take care of business. After all, we do live in the same house so he’d better know me by now.
There’s always a bit of ski talk that follows us home, off the hill, whether it’s about equipment setups, certain runs, or new ideas. We enjoy many other things among skiing which we probably end up talking about more, to be honest.
Q: What’s your favourite summer activity and does it help with your ski racing?
Surfing is a huge part of my families lifestyle, I’ve been lucky to be able to spend a good chunk of time every year on the ocean ever since I was born. I think about it as much as I think about skiing… maybe even a bit more. I’m a little obsessed with it, to say the least.
I feel in ways surfing has helped and influenced my skiing. You always have to be able to adapt quickly and read the waves much like how you have to read the terrain. There’s also a lot of similarities in how you have to transition your power and place your turns on the waves and on the snow. I love watching the best surfers in the world carving through waves because you can really see how they create speed and how you can apply those same principles to skiing.
Q: What piece of ski racing advice would you give your 15-year-old self that might help guide future ski racers in Alberta?
If I could tell my 15-year-old self one thing it would be, “bring your training self to races.” It goes back to the biggest thing I learned this year, which was patience and acceptance. In all seasons past, I would get into different mindsets during races and try to ski out of my skin which is probably the least functional thing I could have done. This season I found a way to bring that chill factor to races where I just stand in the start like I do in training then just ski without even thinking. It becomes a lot easier when you trust yourself and allow yourself to just ski.