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Corner Brook’s Lee Churchill focused on helping nordic skier Alex Harvey win Olympic gold

Lee Churchill of Corner Brook poses for a photo near the nordic ski facility at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games Thursday in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Lee Churchill of Corner Brook poses for a photo near the nordic ski facility at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games Thursday in PyeongChang, South Korea. - Submitted

Wearing Canada’s crest on the Olympic stage with the world watching.

It’s something that athletes driven to pursue excellence in their respective sport dream about doing at some point in the journey.

Some reach that pinnacle. Others are denied.

That’s the just way things roll out.

Lee Churchill had the thought cross his mind when he was growing up as an elite nordic skier in Newfoundland and Labrador, a journey that saw the Hodge’s Cove native push his skills to another level when he won three gold medals for his province at the 1999 Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook.

He never got a chance to ski for Canada at the Olympics, but he has stayed engaged in the sport as a coach and a handy technician who knows a thing or two about wax application and ski selection.

It’s his expertise as a technician that allowed Churchill an opportunity to be part of Team Canada’s group of six service technicians for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Churchill’s role is a big one: he is the man responsible for the waxing and ski selection for medal hopeful Alex Harvey, a role he’s been doing for the past four years in an effort to prepare the Quebec-based athlete for a run at gold.

Knowing he will be fighting for a gold medal has Churchill excited about his Olympic experience.

He knows there’s pressure on him to get it right, but he’s confident he can handle it and his only focus is ensuring Harvey is ready for the challenge.

Churchill has been travelling from Corner Brook to various parts of the country and the world over the past four years on a rotating basis to work with the gifted skier.

He skis the trail system ahead of Harvey days leading up to the race and on race day, and then he recommends what skis his friend should wear.

“At the end of the day it’s my job to give Alex the best possible skis he can have,” Churchill said Thursday from the Olympic Games Athletes Village.

Harvey was considered a medal favourite for Canada’s nordic ski team in Socchi during the 2014 Games, but things didn’t go as planned and there was no medal podium.

The disappointment was felt throughout cross-country ski circles so a change was made. Churchill seemed liked the best fit given his experience and likeness to Harvey in that he was built like him and they had similar technique.

Over the past four years, Harvey began to pull away from the pack with some awesome performances at various World Cup events and heads into the Olympics as the defending world champion.

Seeing Harvey win the gold medal is all that matters to Churchill. He’s not there for a party or to get away from home.

He put in a lot of time to help his friend and spent a lot of time away from his young children to support his athlete.

The quest for gold gets underway Saturday and Churchill is anxious to get to work.

While he waits, he was just checking out the sights and sounds of the Athletes Village Thursday as Canadian athletes started to arrive at the venue.

“It’s just the vibe of being in that atmosphere,” he said. “I’m really excited to be involved in the Olympic spirit and being a Canadian.”

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