Julien Locke is making a strong case to be part of Canada’s Olympic Cross-Country Ski Team.
The Nelson native won the Classic Sprint race Friday at the Olympic Winter Games and Haywood NorAm World Junior/U23 Trials in Mont Ste-Anne, Quebec.
“I’m very pleased with the Olympic Trials sprint win,” Locke told The Nelson Daily.
“This event has been a target since the spring. We prepared well leading into the trials and came here in good form.”
Even though Locke came through Friday’s event with the gold medal, he admits nothing is guaranteed when it comes to which athletes will be selected to represent Canada next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“The Olympic Games selection is quite complex this year and it’s something that is completely out of my control,” Locke explained.
“My focus was on racing well to put myself in the best situation.”
Locke, competing for Black Jack Ski Club from Rossland, topped the 1.5-kilometer race in a time of 0:03:02.81.
Russell Kennedy of Canmore was second followed by Bob Thompson of Thunder Bay, Ont. in third.
Locke said he felt confident after the heats. However, the final was a test for the one-time Nelson Nordic Ski Club competitor as St Ferreol les Neiges course is not long, but it is intense with three climbs and a twisty section before the finishing straight.
“I knew that I was in good shape at the start-line of the A-Final and decided to use it to my advantage, pushing the pace from the gun,” Locke said.
“It’s a great feeling to have the course to myself, focusing on my own race while aware that the others were having difficulty following my pace.”
“I had excellent skis and great support from the club,” he added.
“I’m very fortunate to have an excellent team behind me to make it all possible.”
Born and raised in the Kootenays, the son of Catherine Locke and Arnie Hinke, began skiing at the age of three and soon joined the Nelson Nordic Ski Club Jackrabbit program, which was organized by mother Catherine.
Locke completed all levels of Jackrabbits before moving on to the Junior Racing Team. From there, with the help of volunteer coaches such as Doris Hausleitner, Paul & Miriam Green, Mae Hooper, and others, Locke quickly excelled and began competing at Kootenay Cups and the BC Midget Championships.
He joined the Black Jack Ski Club when he was 14 and competing at the provincial level with Team BC before experiencing success with Canada on the World Junior scene.
The NorAm and U23/World Junior trials continue until Wednesday in Quebec.
Locke said for the men, unfortunately, the classic sprint was the only Olympic Games trial event.
Next up for Locke is Tuesday’s skate sprint before flying to Germany on Wednesday to begin another month of racing on the World Cup, with events in Dresden, Jan 13-14, followed by Planica, January 20-21.