FAIRBANKS, AK- Alaska skiing standout Vahur Teppan has been called up to represent his native Estonia at the World Cup races later this week in Alberta, Canada. Skiing in both Wednesday's classic sprint races as well as Saturday's freestyle sprint, Teppan will trade the blue and gold of the Nanooks for the blue, black and white of Estonia as he faces off against the world's best competition at the sport's highest level.
"It means a lot to be part of the biggest races in the world, besides maybe the Olympics," Teppan said of his selection. "I am really excited and really looking forward to it: I can't wait to see where I place among all these guys. It is a great honor, and it will be great to race for Estonia."
Head coach Scott Jerome, who has seen Teppan grow throughout his two years with the Nanooks, was not surprised by his call-up to the national team.
"Last year at the U.S. Nationals, Vahur had the second-fastest qualifying time in the sprint; he really turned some heads there. The U.S. Ski Team sprint coach came up to me and asked where he was from, and said, "You better watch out: Estonia might be calling him back. Obviously, they certainly had him on their radar."
"It's a pretty darn big achievement," Jerome added. "[His selection] is a pretty huge thing: both for him and for our program. It's great to when people that work hard are rewarded for their efforts. There is a lot of people with a lot of potential out there, but very few that can put it all together: Vahur is one of the few that is able to do that. He is a gifted athlete, he is smart, and has really made the most of it by diligent training and hard work, so it is appropriate that he should get this opportunity."
The Nanook senior is not a complete stranger to skiing at the international level: Teppan participated in one previous World Cup race hosted by Estonia on January 8, 2006, where he finished 48th in the sprints just prior to joining to Alaska.
According to Jerome, however, Teppan's inclusion in this week's World Cup races represent a much more prestigious honor than his previous selection.
"When a country hosts a World Cup, you get what's called a nation's quota: basically, if your country hosts a World Cup, you get more starting spots in the races," he said. "He made it under that quota the first time, but this time, it's more legitimate because he is not there just as a nation's quota: he has actually earned his spot."
For Teppan, the call-up to his national side represents a just reward for all his hard work, and a highlight of what has already been a stellar season. Teppan grabbed the bronze at U.S. Senior Nationals earlier this month, taking third place and the top collegiate finish in the freestyle sprints in Houghton, Mich. Showing his versatility, Teppan also landed a 15th-place finish in the 15 km classic, and teamed with fellow senior Marius Korthauer to grab a fourth-place finish in the team classic sprint relay at the event.
"Vahur really showed at U.S. Nationals this year that he can compete with guys that are doing well on the World Cup," Jerome said. "He is still young, he is only 23
In action at the NTN trails in Marquette this weekend, Teppan essentially clinched a spot at this season's NCAA Championships with a second-place finish in the 10 km freestyle and a fourth-place finish in the 15 km classic.
While he admits the World Cup experience is certainly something he will savor, Teppan was quick to shift the focus back on the Nanooks and his currently collegiate season. "Getting to the World Cup was a goal of mine, but still my main goal is to do well at NCAA's," he said. "I really want to do better at the national championships than last season. But to be in the World Cup races is a bonus for me."
Teppan will take part in his first race at the Canmore Nordic Center tomorrow, as he participates in the 1.2 km classic sprint, with qualifiers beginning at 10:30 a.m. Alaska time. Teppan then returns to the trails on Saturday, Jan. 26 for the freestyle sprints, also starting at 10:30 a.m. For live results of all this week's World Cup races in Alberta, please visit www.fis-ski.com.
Alaska Skier Vahur Teppan To Represent Estonia At Alberta World Cup (3)