He’s an Olympian, a Team Canada wax technician, an accomplished head coach, and is soon to be a Hall of Famer.
Whitehorse’s Alain Masson is this year’s inductee to the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame, Sport Yukon announced on Wednesday.
“I was very pleased, I was super happy,” said Masson. “I’m very honoured to have been selected.”
Masson, 52, became the head coach and sport co-ordinator for Cross Country Yukon in 1995. Since then, 14 Yukoners have been selected for national team spots.
He takes great pride in the systems and programs he implemented that have helped make Yukon a powerhouse in the sport.
“My greatest pride is the system I have help put in place since I started with CCY, the ability of the squad program to optimize the potential of the athletes coming through it,” he said.
“The first 10 years were building the program, making changes, increasing capacity, developing new structure and programs. The last 10 years have been the rewards of all the work from the first 10 years.”
Before he became a coach, Masson was an accomplished athlete.
Masson represented Canada at three Olympic Games – two winter and one summer. He competed in cycling at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. He then raced in cross-country skiing in the 1998 Winter Games in Calgary and the 1992 Games in Albertville, France.
He also skied at four world championships.
“For skiing, I don’t remember the exact number, but in the low-40s was my best placing as an individual (at the Olympics),” said Masson. “At the world championship 30th was my best individual placing.”
Following retirement in 1992, the Montreal native began to work as a wax technician with Cross Country Canada. Masson continues to work with Canada’s national ski teams and has attended seven world championships and three Olympic Games in his role as a wax technician. Masson will add a fourth Olympics to the list in February at the Sochi Games.
“That’s been one of the highlights, being able to combine my experience and skills to contribute to their success,” said Masson.
The Yukon Ski Team’s 2006/2007 season is one that stands out in his mind.
That year Whitehorse hosted the Canada Winter Games with Yukon winning three medals.
At the end of the season, Yukon skiers collected 17 medals at the Haywood Ski Nationals, the most the Yukon Ski Team has ever won at a national championship.
“That year was remarkable,” said Masson.
The 2011/2012 season was another good one. Five Whitehorse skiers were selected for national teams that season and five went on to compete at the 2012 World Junior & U23 Championships.
“It’ll be very difficult and will take a long time before we can equal that one,” said Masson.
For the second season in a row, Yukon has three skiers on national teams including Whitehorse siblings Graham and Emily Nishikawa on the senior development team, and Dahria Beatty on the junior team. All three have trained under Masson.
The Nishikawas competed for Canada at last year’s work championship.
“I’ve been working with Graham and Emily since they were about 13 years old,” said Masson.
So what makes Whitehorse such a powerhouse on the national ski scene?
“There are many reasons,” said Masson. “It’s great community that really cares about their athletes, their program. Great volunteers, great athletes, obviously. Supportive families. The quality of the programs that have been in place for a long time. And the support of the government in terms of funding to the athletes and to the program. A great facility with an ideal climate for winter sports.
“There are just so many factors. We’re just lucky to have so many quality athletes entering the program.”
Oops, he forgot something: a great head coach.
The induction ceremony will take place during the Sport Yukon Awards Night next Thursday at the Westmark Whitehorse.
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