Kenora skier sets personal best at Para Nordic World Cup in Finland

By Eric Shih
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

Cross-country skier Jesse Bachinsky has returned home to Kenora from the Para Nordic World Cup in Finland with his best results ever.

Bachinsky is on the Canadian National Para ski team and competed in the visual impaired classification at the 10-day event in mid-December in Vuokatti, Finland. This is the fifth time he has competed at a World Cup event.

“I had some really great races at the World Cup and I got the best points I’ve ever had and I got some really good placing as well,” he said. “It was the benchmark goal to meet for this year and I ended up getting some really great points that qualified me to get back on the [Nordiq Canada] NextGen team for this summer again.” 

Bachinsky finished ninth in the 5-kilometre race, seventh in the 10-kilometre race, and 12th in the sprint race.

“It kind of blows my mind [when thinking of finishing in the top 10], it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but when I found out I [had] so much excitement. It was incredible just to be there with all the other racers and all the different cultures, [speaking] different languages,” he said. “It was just so cool.”

Bachinsky said his ultimate goal is to race for Canada in the 2026 Paralympic Games, which will be held in Italy.

He first started skiing when he was 16 years old when a family friend who was a cross country ski coach who encouraged him to try it out.

“The first time I put skis on, it was funny, I was like Bambi. But I loved the feel of skis since the moment I put them on my feet. I just loved it. I was like, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life,” he said.

Training as an elite athlete is a full-time job, said Bachinsky, who gets funding for international travel from Nordiq Canada, the national governing body for cross country skiing, and also has sponsors to help him out.

He said his year-round training regimen includes road skiing in the summer, training on the snow in the winter, running, cycling, and strength training. 

He’s also busy with multiple trips out west each year to Canmore, Alta., to train with a national coach, Graham Nishakawa. There is another trip coming up at the end of the month.

“I’ve been so lucky to have Graham as my coach. He always goes above and beyond and I have learned so much from him,” Bachinsky said. “He has a great way of communicating information and is always there to help. We have a really great coach/athlete relationship and I just respect him so much.”

Tamara Howard-Bachinsky, Jesse’s mom and his coach when he trains at home, said he was born visually impaired.

“But when he was around 12 years old, he got a very rare secondary eye disease as well,” she said. “He was born with no central vision, [which is] what allows you to kind of make out people’s faces and read and [see] fine details. When he was around 12 or 13, Jesse began to lose his peripheral vision, and now he has absolutely no peripheral vision anymore. So [there’s] no vision, no discernible light, whatsoever in his left eye, and he has very limited functional vision in his right eye.”

Bachinsky cites Brian McKeever, Canada’s most decorated Paralympian with 20 medals in cross country skiing and who is also visually impaired, as his inspiration. 

“He is an incredible athlete, and an amazing person. Its been a privilege to race with him and to have him coach me,” he said. “His depth of knowledge of this sport is unparalleled.”

Both Bachinsky gave credit to his guide, Levi Nadlersmith, with whom he has had a long history.

“He’s my eyes on and off the trails and we make a great team,” he said. “It takes a special kind of person to be a guide and Levi has a natural gift for it. I can’t express how grateful I am for all that he has done for me and I wouldn’t be doing this without him.”

Bachinsky said they communicate via a wireless two way radio system.

He said Nadlersmith volunteered to guide him during at his first race in Manitoba when he was 16. At the time, Nadlersmith was a competitive cross country ski racer himself, training with the national development team out of Thunder Bay. After Jesse’s race, he literally slipped across the finish line and then across the start line and began his own race, said Howard-Bachinsky.

“Little did we know that their paths will cross again and that he would become Jesse’s national team guide,” she said. “He has been with Jesse now for the last three to four years.”