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The 28th Winter Universiade, held on January 29 – February 8 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, is an international multi-sport event which is organized for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). Over 2000 student athletes from more than 55 countries all came together to compete in specific sporting events including curling, alpine skiing, snowboarding and much more.
One of those athletes was Lakehead’s own Gavin Shields.
Gavin, in his second year at Lakehead University studying Indigenous Learning, is a talented student athlete that competes in both cross country and nordic skiing.
“It was the first time across the pond for me and I probably didn’t anticipate the destination to go to would be Kazakhstan. However, to go for an international multi-sport event where everybody else from 57 other countries were students and athletes, it was a really awesome way to see the world. Kazakhstan is very multicultural and the state put on a really well run event. The young volunteers were amazingly enthusiastic — couldn’t count the number of selfies we had to pose and put on a smile for!”
With not a better person to represent Lakehead, Gavin competed in 5 cross country skiing races for Team Canada during his time in Almaty (see Gavins full results below)
“Racing could have gone better. I was consistent for the first 3 races — just not consistently good. I suffered from some sickness as it was my first time acclimatizing to over 24hr of travel, 11hr jet leg, altitude and all the goings on with the opening ceremonies, receptions and course inspections within one and a half days of arriving.”
Once Gavin had some time to adjust to his experience, he felt much more confident in his performances for the second half of the races.
“There’s a big difference between domestic and international racing. On the distance day 4, the Russians and Kazakhstans were over 2 and a half minutes ahead of the field – A good wake up call!”
Gavin States, “Overall, there was a great group of guys and gals as teammates from Canada. It was also really awesome to meet so many people from other places around the world. My parents are at the top of the list of people to thank for all the support over the years. A big thanks for this trip in particular also goes out to all my personal sponsors and professors. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all the people involved with both teams — running and skiing — at Lakehead! At the end of a day, it was a bit disappointing not to have performed as well as the preparation in place suggested, but it’s only disappointing for about a second because that’s the way racing goes sometimes and you get over it easier when there’s factors out of your control. The trip and the process of training for it was amazing.”
Passionate about writing, Gavin has taken his experiences in Kazakhstan and is putting it towards some projects he is working on. Along side competing on two varsity sports and a full course load at Lakehead University, Gavin explains that all the hard work in the end payed off and “it was nice to be able to step away into a bit of a fantasy world centred around the student/sporting life”.
Gavin will be competing in the OUA Nordic Ski Championship alongside his teammates in Midland this upcoming weekend.