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Waldear masters first place at Nordic championships

Courtesy of Kirkwood

Earlier this month, more than 2,000 competitors from around the world convened for the World Masters Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y. and Kirkwood’s 48-year-old Debbi Waldear swept the field, returning to Kirkwood with four golds, including 10K, 20K, 30K and the relay.

March 2 featured a 20K race where Waldear came in with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 55 secons, more than two minutes ahead of Russia’s Marja Leivionen. Then on March 4, she took the gold in the 10K with a time of 31:44 and a 32-second lead over Germany’s Taliana Ribakova. March 5 brought the relay race where the United States took the gold against the favored Russian team.

Waldear attributes the relay win to poor sportsmanship and waxing on the Russian team’s part. She explained, “The lead Russian woman wouldn’t take her turn leading (racers take turns in the lead similar to bike drafting). When the U.S. leader, Muffy Ritz of Sun Valley, Idaho, stepped out of the track, the lead Russian woman followed her. The United States team had waxed with sticky Klister wax, which allowed for less snow buildup when off of the track. The Russian team had waxed with something else and as a result the Russian leader’s skis iced up when she stepped out of the track. Four minutes after Ritz skied across the finish line, the Russian woman walked across it with 3 inches of snow on the bottom of her skis.

The final race was the 30K, on March 7, where Waldear came in with a time of 1:26 and a lead of 4 minutes over Canada’s Silvia Stettler.

This was Waldear’s third World Masters Championships and the first time she’s come home with four golds. Last year, in Italy, she took a gold in the 30K and silvers in the 10K and 20K. She first competed in the World Masters Championships in 1992 where she took two golds and a bronze.

Waldear attributes her stellar performance to 18 years of competition combined with a lot of hard skiing. Because Waldear manages the Kirkwood Cross Country Center, she has the opportunity to train both before and after work each day while many of the other competitors are ex-Olympians coming back to the sport now that their children have grown older, and have less opportunity to train.

“The shoveling this season might also have helped,” she said. (

Waldear enjoyed being in an ex-Olympic site and found Lake Placid to be “a nice little town filled with competitors.” She enjoyed the casual atmosphere and the ability to speak with fellow competitors on the street as well as on the race course. According to Waldear, everyone had a good time participating in other things aside from cross country skiing – such as ice skating and bobsledding – which helped to cut the tension during the races.

Next year, Waldear will gear her efforts toward coaching the Far West Junior Nordic Ski Team. She plans to compete in the 2000 Masters Championships in Sweden in a new age category – she’ll be 50.

Waldear has directed the Kirkwood Cross Country Center since 1986 and has worked at the center since 1980. Those seeking personal instruction from the masters champion are encouraged to take advantage of her women’s skate clinics, private skate lessons and group lessons offered every weekend at the cross country center.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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