Jasper, 12, and Gwendolyn, 8, have been cross-country skiing since they could walk.
The brother and sister pair are incredibly ambitious, dedicating hundreds of hours each season to training, training and competing at a high level.
A few weeks ago, the Sault hosted the Ontario Youth Championships where 184 athletes from 14 clubs across the province competed in Hiawatha. Finland’s soo Nordic Ski Club won the championship banner on home soil as local skiers took home numerous accolades.
Jasper and Gwendolyn were massive contributors to this banner win as they each received two gold medals in skating and recurve for their respective age groups.
“It was really nice to be recognized that way,” Jasper said. “It’s a really cool feeling to have worked really hard for something and it pays off.”
To suggest that siblings work hard to receive these realizations would be grossly understated.
Last season alone, Jasper covered over 400 kilometers of training distance, while Gwendolyn logged over 300 kilometers herself.
It may be hard work, but they also find it very enjoyable.
“It’s fun to go out,” says Gwendolyn. “Having our friends ski with us is really nice, and I find it really relaxing.”
The Soo Finnish Club is considered a tight-knit athletics community with immense support from the families involved. It is this sense of teamwork that drives the Tchir siblings to keep working hard.
“Having a team is really important for support,” says Jasper. “Every time I train with my friends it’s a lot of fun and it’s so much more enjoyable.”
The local junior and senior race teams are described as being like family, and the support between older and younger skiers is invaluable to their work ethic.
“I love having them around me to help me and teach me things about skiing,” says Gwendolyn. “There are a lot of older skiers in the team, and it’s really motivating to have them there.”
The pandemic halted most training and racing for almost two years. The kids were restricted to club races with their teammates as they missed competing against other clubs outside of the Sault.
But that didn’t stop the brother and sister from staying motivated.
“Not being able to run was a disappointment,” says Jasper. “But I took those two years to train hard and really prepare for the years to come.”
Although the ski season is over for Jasper and Gwendolyn, that doesn’t mean the work stops here.
Between them, the siblings engage in cross-training and dry-land workouts, where they do a lot of running and other fitness activities. They are also involved in several sports and activities such as swimming, baseball, soccer, cycling and dancing.
“Ballet helps with my balance and swimming helps with our endurance,” says Gwendolyn.
Children also find motivation in the athletes they are inspired by.
Gwendolyn adores American gold medalist Jessie Diggins, as well as local senior club skiers Anna and Kate. Jasper looks up to world champions Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey. Kershaw actually reached out to Jasper and told him to keep working hard, and even gave Jasper one of his skis.
The Tchirs say they are already looking forward to next year and each plan to continue competing in cross-country skiing through high school and potentially beyond.
The siblings encourage anyone considering playing the sport to get involved.
“It’s a good choice for staying active and participating in social activities,” says Jasper. “You don’t have to jump straight into racing. You can ski for fun or competitively. It’s just a great way to make friends.”