Olympic dreams come true, one way or the other

Dirk Van Wijk’s dream of making it to the Olympics has finally come true. Only he won’t be competing as an athlete, but will instead be grooming trails for the cross-country skiing competition as Chief of Course Preparations for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, B.C.

When the now 50-year-old trail groomer was in his prime, he was quite the cross-country skier. In 1979, Van Wijk competed at the World Junior Championships where he placed 47th. Although the world championships are as far as he ever went in cross-country skiing as a competitor, he found a way to make to the greatest sporting event on the planet.

“I never made it to the Olympics as an athlete,” said Van Wijk from his Chelsea home.

“So this is another way in.”

Growing up, Van Wijk would groom trails around his home on Ramsay Rd. so that he could ski from his doorstep. He enjoyed grooming trails so much that he began to do it on a regular basis. Van Wijk has experience grooming trails for the Nakkertok Cross-Country Ski Club in Cantley and other trails in the area and has gotten pretty good at it. So when he heard that the Olympic Committee was taking applications for groomers, he immediately sent off his resume.

Van Wijk was then invited on somewhat of a tryout at the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships in March of last year and the judges obviously liked what they saw. Van Wijk was invited back to groom trails for two world cup competitions in Whistler, where he impressed even more people. Van Wijk was hoping for a volunteer grooming position for this year’s Olympic Games and was willing to pay his own way, but his skills were so good, that he was promoted to Chief of Course Preparations. He won’t exactly get paid for his work, but he won’t have to spend a cent either. All of Van Wijk’s expenses are covered.

As Chief of Course Preparations, Van Wijk will have some more administrative duties and will have a “nice mix” of time spent grooming trails in a machine and sitting in an office.

Van Wijk said his biggest challenge will be dependant on Mother Nature and he is hoping that cold temperatures and minimal snow are high priorities.

“If we do get a lot of snow, we will consider pushing it off the trail,” said Van Wijk.

Van Wijk will also head course preparations for the Paralympic Games as well. He heads to Whistler Feb. 1