Olympian joins Sigge's Payak field »

Olympian hopes to lead the 50 k field at the Sigge’s Payak

Olympian Brittany Webster is boldly going somewhere she’s never raced before – the 50 km distance at the Sigge’s Payak on February 27. Asked why she chose the longest option, Webster was candid – for the cash! The 50 km pays $400 to the first place male and female, while the 30 km offers $350.

“At first I thought it was just a bit more than a 30 k, then I realized it’s actually a lot more,” she said laughing. Asked about her strategy on race day, Webster said hopes not to go out too hard at the start and blow herself up. A distance specialist, Webster has retired from the national team but still takes on triathlons and other competitive events. She knows that with the distance, everyone is going to have a lot of muscle fatigue, so there comes a point when everyone is just hanging on.

Webster qualified for the national team in 2010 and was in Whistler to compete, but came down with a the “worst virus” imaginable on the morning of her first event, and was never able to race. Four years later, she barely managed to qualify for the Olympics in Sochi. Making it to that starting line, in the stadium overlooking Russa, was her favorite moment as an athlete.

“I had dreamed of that moment for so long, after the disappointment in Whistler, and qualifying wasn’t easy and then having to hold onto my shape through to the Olympics was so hard. Standing on that start line was so surreal, I almost couldn’t believe I was there,” she said, describing the venue as the most beautiful she’s ever seen.

Organizers are excited by Webster’s entry, because the field in the Sigge’s Payak has included Olympic rowers and mountain bikers in past and present editions of the

Sigge’s Payak, but this is the first cross country ski racer!

After the race Webster will be a medal presenter and available for autographs. She also plans to attend the Sunday events for kids and youth, a great opportunity for any youngsters to meet an Olympic athlete.

“I'm really excited to be a part of it, share stories and inspiration with some of the kids.”

Webster describes her parents as her biggest heroes in life, and her former teammate and Olympic medallist Sara Renner as the athlete mentor she most admires. Renner instilled an attitude of teamwork in the athletes, which she had never experienced in her grind up to the national team level. Renner didn’t believe in the individual athlete approach. “I appreciated it, it made me a faster, better skier, and she was so supportive and kind. When she retired, I tried to take it onto myself to be a mentor and skier in the same way.”

Brittany is an 8 time National Champion in Canada, as well as taking top spots in national championship races in the US and Austria. She was the youngest member of the 2010 cross country Olympic Team, and the top Canadian female in the distance event at Sochi. She placed top 10 at the World Junior Championships in Italy and the U23 World Championships in Germany. More recently, Brittany was the top overall amateur female athlete at the2014 Xterra triathlon in Maui. She has retired from the national team and is a motivational speaker, involved in charity work, and attending university.

The Sigge’s Payak is the largest loppet in BC, and has been attracting a significant following. The Sigge’s Payak is also a qualifier for the US Birkebeiner event in

Wisconsin. The field is at nearly 430 for the two day event, with another three weeks for registrations to come in.

For more information, go to www.payak.ca or check out the twitter feed @payakentsut. Event Chair Dirk Rohde can be reached at 604 942-6410.