Shilo Rousseau Ski Season Update

Shilo Rousseau Ski Season Update

This year Shilo has been very busy with being a first year student at the University of Ottawa studying Biology. Her first semester courses she was taking Biology, Math and English while training full time and she was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA.

After writing her final exam in math, Shilo flew out of Ottawa on a Thursday evening in Mid-November 2019 to Calgary Alberta for the Junior World Championship trial races for biathlon. Having no time to adjust to the altitude, and having to fly in, race on the Saturday and Sunday, and fly back to Ottawa on the Monday for another exam on the Tuesday. 

Saturday it was an individual 10km race with two prone and two standing bouts of shooting. She managed to shoot 19 out of 20, finishing in first place. Sunday was a 7.5KM with one bout of prone and standing and Shilo managed to finish in 2nd place shooting 8 out of 10.

This was the first time that she has ever just flew in to altitude and raced without allowing her body to adjust. Her arms and legs felt heavy and it was quite a different feeling to race under these conditions. Shilo was happy that she had earned the #1 spot on the Canadian Junior World Biathlon Championship team, to take place in Lenzeheide, Switzerland.

With a little bit of sadness, she made a very hard decision not to attend the World Championships. Her # 1 goal this year was to do well in school, keep up her high level of training for biathlon and cross-country skiing. International Biathlon tours are very expensive, along with the cost of attending University this year.She felt she should do more cross country ski races this year, because this is where an improvement could be made to improve her ski speed!

Over the Christmas holidays Shilo raced in the USA Cross Country Ski Nationals in Houghton, Michigan. In the Junior women’s sprint race Shilo was feeling strong and managed to have a 3rd place finish which was great. She also had a 13th place finish in a 10km skate race.  In the mass start classic race she managed to move up 19 spots, after starting right near the back of the pack because they don’t recognize Canadian points in the USA circuit.

Shilo was fine with starting at the back of the pack, and just enjoyed racing in a pack of around 100 racers to just see how many spots she could move up. After these races Shilo went back to Ottawa to figure out her next semester of schooling.

Not sure what to do with the racing season in full swing and finding out that first year students are not allowed to take any online courses, she decided to ask the University if they would make an exception, since it would be impossible for her to miss many in class sessions and still do well, while away racing.

If she took less than 3 courses the second semester, then she would not be able to race for the University ski team. The request was brought to a board meeting for a final decision and they ruled in Shilo's favour. The university ski coach was excited to have her race for them. So this semester, Shilo is doing 2 online course and one in class.

The next set of races, in Mont Ste Anne, Quebec were the Junior/U23 world trial Canadian team selection races for cross country skiing. Shilo was just not feeling herself having a hard time to find that extra gear, which many racers encounter during their careers, her races were not good enough to make the team, but her best friend Zoe was able to put things together and she qualified for the U23 Canadian team. Shilo was extremely happy that at least one of them was able to make the team, because not too many Canadian Biathletes (not sure if there is even one that has done this) can ever say that they have made both the Biathlon and Cross-Country ski teams for Canada.

After these races they both headed back to Ottawa to attend school for a few days, then to travel to Sherbrooke, Quebec for the Eastern Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships the next weekend. Shilo was still not feeling 100% but managed to be the top U20 female in the 2-day pursuit. But during the heat races on the first day of this event Shilo’s friend had pulled her shoulder out and is now waiting for surgery on both her shoulders and this has put an end to the race season for her with great disappointment not being able to compete for Canada at the U23 world championship. It's a good thing that the girls are in school because they have school to fall back on when unforeseen things like this occur. You have no real control over it, and no time to feel sorry for yourself, because school work takes over.

Zoe still is training but is unable to use her arms only legs until her surgery gets done and both her and Shilo now see how important it is to go to school at the same time pursuing you sports dream. Not having school would have left Zoe with too much time to think.

Shilo (L) at OUA championships in SSM racing for University of Ottawa.
Shilo (L) at OUA championships in SSM racing for University of Ottawa.

This past weekend The Ontario University Athletics Cross Country Ski Championships took place in Sault Ste Marie at Hiawatha. Shilo, still not feeling her best, managed to have a 6th place finish in the 10km skate race on Friday. Her coach decided that she should not race on Saturday and just rest, then do the team relay race on Sunday. Ottawa managed to finish in 4th in both the men and women team relays.

Shilo had the first leg of these races where she tagged off in 4th and the rest of the team managed to keep a 4th place finish. The Ottawa team had a great finish considering this is only their 2nd year as a team. It was back to Ottawa after these races for some much needed rest and Shilo hopes she is able to get back to feeling like herself. Race season is so unpredictable for athletes at this level. It can be heart breaking when they work hard as an elite athlete does, with the amount of hours involved, and it can be cruel to get injured. They have to be in it for the long haul, not the short term rewards, because in this sport your best usually doesn’t come until mid-twenties to early thirties.

Shilo's sister Chandra, is holding her own and has finished in the top 15, in many races this season. She sees how results don’t matter and that you cannot rush them, because this is a sport you must be in for the long term, and having fun and making great friends/memories is the most important thing in your life.

Submitted by Cecilia Rousseau