An appendicitis attack in the early part of last season nearly derailed Eric Byram’s cross-country skiing year before it started.
Perseverance has paid off for the 17-year-old Vernon native as he will be competing with Cross-Country Canada’s national talent squad this season. He will be racing with the Alberta World Cup Academy in Canmore under coach Alain Parent.
Byram is the only male from Western Canada to make the talent squad, and his big goal for the coming season is to make the junior national team.
“It feels awesome,” said Byram, who spent the summer in Canmore for off-season training. “It’s great to have something to show for all the hard work. All the hard workouts have been pushed because I knew that it would pay off.”
Byram, who raced with the Black Jack club out of Rossland last season, capped a stellar comeback following his surgery with a standout performance at nationals. It is what got him on the talent squad radar.
“The appendicitis at the start kind of fizzled (my season) away,” said Byram. “But I was very happy with how nationals went. Being the top 1996-born boy in the country overall at nationals felt awesome.”
While the sprint distances are where Byram excels, he said: “I strive to be an all-round skier as sprint races aren’t as plentiful as distance races.”
The talent squad program identifies approximately 20 young athletes, both male and female, between the age of 15 and 18 as future national training centre athletes.
The program is coordinated by Cross-Country Canada, but delivered by the four national development centres, Byram’s being the Alberta academy. The goal is to help prepare future athletes by developing the skills and knowledge required for a more seamless transition into a training centre.
Byram also competes in biathlon, and lists his other hobbies as photography and videography, which he said offer a much-needed creative outlet to balance the strenuous demands of training.
In the off-season, Byram goes into cross-training mode by biking (road and mountain), running and roller skiing. He tosses in a variety of gym and core workouts to keep his overall fitness at peak level.
By training in Canmore in the off-season, he has the opportunity to strap on the skis on Haig glacier.
Byram’s older brother, Joe, is a terrific athlete in his own right. The 19-year-old is entering his third year with the University of Alberta Golden Bears men’s swim team.
However, you couldn’t pay Eric to switch sports with his big bro.
“Opposite ends of the spectrum there,” he grinned. “It just seemed to be what we both loved and it just went from there.
“It’s funny because my brother isn’t too fond of XC skiing and I’m the same with swimming. You’d really have to twist our arms to get us doing the other’s sport.”
Byram thanked coaches Skeets Morel and Mary Edgar for guiding his development, and Stussi Sport for their sponsorship.
“And, of course, my parents and family, putting up with my crabby moods after long workouts, the long travels, and providing the taxi service to and from workouts,” he said.