“She’s definitely in the group we’re looking at”
The list of accomplishments for local Nordic skier Rebecca Dussault is staggering. It includes eight national cross-country titles, a trip to the 2006 Olympics in Torino as a member of the U.S. Olympic team, and winning the 2009 Birkebeiner, just to name a few.
Dussault took a break from the competitive world of Nordic racing, the second one of her career, following the 2006 Olympic games. The break turned into a two-and-a-half year hiatus as Dussault’s husband, Sharbel, fell ill and she needed to stay home to help care for him and their family.
By August 2008, she was back into the swing of things and set her sights on the marathon racing circuit to help with family finances.
“Ski racing just always seems to find me, though Sharbel says I always seem to find ski racing,” says Dussault. “I thought I had it in me and I could do marathon races and win some money—go back to what I know how to do best.”
According to Dussault, it just “snowballed” from there as she started ticking off wins in several races, including the aforementioned Birkebeiner.
“A couple victories last winter showed that I’m still at the top,” says Dussault.
With that in mind, Dussault realized that maybe a run at the 2010 Olympic team was well within reach, and she set her sights on Vancouver 2010.
Unfortunately for Dussault, while her talent is still there, the spots on the U.S. Team are not, as cutbacks have the team numbers dwindling. The U.S. Ski Team took 16 Nordic skiers to Torino, but that number could be cut dramatically for Vancouver.
“We expect the quota will be smaller than Torino,” says John Farra, USSA Nordic Director. “I would expect and hope we could have up to 12 men and women.”
As a result the pressure is on this season, as skiers compete on the qualifying circuit starting in West Yellowstone two weeks ago and culminating with the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Anchorage, Alaska January 2-8.
“It’s an exciting couple of months,” says Farra.
According to Farra, there are three ways for Olympic hopefuls to make the team. The first way is to be ranked in the top 50 on the FIS World Cup rankings. The second way is coach’s discretion—that is, an athlete who the coaching staff knows, regardless of their ranking or current race success, they must have on the team in Vancouver.
The third way is to be in one of the top spots on the USSA national rankings list by the time the team is named in the end of January. To do that, athletes, including Dussault, are in the midst of the SuperTour, a series of races that garner athletes points toward their USSA ranking.
Dussault had a rough start on the SuperTour series in West Yellowstone, falling ill following the opening 1.4-kilometer classic sprint and thus missing the two big races that weekend, a 10-kilometer skate and five-kilometer classic race.
“That was a huge hit,” says Dussault.
Dussault remained focused on the task at hand though, and recovered the following weekend at races in Bozeman, Montana. Dussault rallied to a fourth-place finish in the skate sprint, her first one in four years, and then third place in the 10-kilometer classic race.
“That was fun to get back on the podium,” says Dussault. “I’m right on the bubble.”
The financial hit is two-fold though, as not only are there fewer spots on the team, but it’s harder financially for Dussault to continue competing and improve her national ranking.
In fact, she decided just 15 minutes before the bus was leaving for a NorAm race in Canada, another chance for Dussault to climb the ranks, to hop on.
That aspect of the whole process is the most frustrating for Dussault.
“Financially I have a huge limiting factor and that might keep me from my goal,” explains Dussault. “Athletically I’m so close and I feel like it should only get better. It’s coming around.”
After her races in Canada this weekend, Dussault will return to the Gunnison Valley, continue training and host a fundraiser to help her reach Olympic glory.
“We’ve got to get back and see if we can rally some support,” says Dussault.
Then, it will be off to Alaska in January.
“I really need to pop some good ones up in Anchorage,” says Dussault. “That would help me seal the deal for sure.”
“Rebecca, at times, has been able to post some solid results,” adds Farra. “She’s definitely in the group we’re looking at.”
You can help Dussault right now in her Olympic quest by going to her website, dussaultskis.com and donate online.