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The Athlete, the Coach and the Bucket List
Some time ago, Fraser Oliver asked me to share a story about my daughter, Sarah, for our website. Both Sarah and Mike Argue, also mentioned in the article, greatly benefited from the opportunity to participate in many NWT school sports in their formative athletic years. Dedicated coaches like you aided them tremendously. Both Juneva Green and Ann Jones, mentioned in the piece, are retired teachers. This article first appeared in the “Slave River Journal”. 
- Richard Daitch, Executive Director, NWTSAF

The Athlete, the Coach
and the Bucket List

A few days before her first World Cup race in Canmore, Alberta, cross-country skier Sarah Daitch, her coach John Jaques and his wife Carol saw a film called ‘The Bucket List”. The movie is about two men with terminal illnesses who make a list of things that they want to do before they “kick the bucket”. After the film, Coach Jaques announced, “Number one on my bucket list is to have one of my skiers finish in the top 30 in a World Cup race.” On January 26, Sarah placed an astonishing 19th in a competition against the world’s best sprinters from 21 nations. On February 24, Sarah anchored the Canadian relay team, which included Sara Renner, Chandra Crawford and Madeleine Williams to 10th -place in a World Cup race in Falun, Sweden. 

Whether it is at the initial learning stages or on an international stage, a coach like a good teacher is essential to the development of an athlete. Juneva Green and Ann Jones were instrumental in sharing the joy of skiing with Sarah and hundreds of Fort Smith youngsters. Former NWT coach, Mike Neary, and others helped develop Daitch’s skills. Then along came Coach Jaques. 

John Jaques, who also trains Yellowknife’s Mike Argue, who had a spectacular race at the Kananaskis Ski Marathon on February 23 finishing second, is well suited to these northern athletes. Both Argue and Daitch won medals at the Canada Winter Games under his guidance.

The coach’s goals are long range and he would rather unwell athletics skip a race or two, rather than put their heath in jeopardy. Under Jaques, Sarah has thrived qualifying to represent Canada the World Under-23s, World University Games and currently in World Cup races in Estonia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Jacques is an inventive coach whose athletes run in road races, kayak, ride mountain bikes, lift weights and do a variety of both conventional and off beat activities. For the last two seasons, Jaques has ridden a bike down the streets of Canmore giving direction to Sarah while she has worked on her double poling technique on hot summer days. They probably looked like an odd couple, but the results have been significant. On Wednesday, her qualifying time in the Stockholm World Cup Classic Sprint was 2:42, by far her fastest classic time. She credits improved double poling process to her sprinting success.

Sometimes competition is harder on the coach than the athlete. The day before Sarah’s big race in Canmore, Jaques had a sleepless night, worrying about waxes, popping up periodically to check on changing weather conditions and generally being concerned about how his athlete would perform on such a big stage. In the end, the coach and athlete produced an outstanding result. 

Last Sunday, in a star-studded field, Daitch skied her five-kilometre leg 17:31.3 ensuring a top 10 finish for the Canadian ladies. She is becoming more comfortable on the World Cup circuit with its larger crowds, increased pressure and varying conditions. The opportunity of multi-country European tour, however, meant that she had to leave Coach Jaques behind. So while Sarah is touring Europe, Jaques is in Canmore attending to the needs of his many other racers. At last sighting, the athlete was on her way to Finland for a major sprint race, while the coach was making a new bucket list.

Relay teammates Sara Renner, Chandra Crawford and Sarah Daitch. Renner and Crawford are Olympic medalists.