Resolutions all year long

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

Anyone in search of self-improvement inspiration this time of year shouldn't look to Olympic athletes for impressive New Year's resolutions. Most have none.

None of the typical vows to lose weight, quit smoking, or exercise more, for sure. Because even though the New Year is a popular period for committing to lifestyle changes -- witness one running shoe store's current pitch of "A Brand New Year, a Brand New You" -- the best athletes already do all that healthy stuff well. As 2009 begins, it's training and racing as usual.

Take Devon Kershaw. The Sudbury cross-country skier has been living out of a bag in Europe for two months, spent Christmas Day travelling, and New Year's Day racing the Tour de Ski. It's a gruelling competition that includes seven races in nine days in three different countries.

With sport guiding his lifestyle to this extent, New Year's resolutions seem pretty irrelevant to Kershaw.

"If there is something I really want to change in my life, or sport, I try to implement it as quickly as I can," Kershaw said. "Why wait? Seems like procrastination to me. As an athlete, I need to be as diligent as possible to catch mistakes, or stay on top of my goals if I want to achieve what I've set out for myself."

His approach is working. Kershaw, 26, won a bronze medal in the men's 15-kilometre classic race and second stage of the Tour de Ski, in Oberhof, Germany last Sunday. He sits in seventh spot overall heading into the final weekend of competition.

The Tour de Ski, which is modeled after the Tour de France in cycling, wraps up in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Sunday.

Kershaw's teammate, Olympic silver-medallist Sara Renner, also doesn't make New Year's resolutions.

Nor does speedskater Clara Hughes, owner of five Olympic medals. On Dec. 31, Hughes won the 5,000-metre race at the Canadian long-track speed-skating single distance championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval. She clearly is doing something right with her approach, too.

"I don't believe in New Year's resolutions," Hughes said. "I believe in living each day as a new year and making the most of the moments I am in. There are many more things I would wish for before sport, like peace and safety for so many who are living in such awful situations around the world."

As biathlete Sandra Keith explains it: "As an athlete, you're constantly making goals, whether it's on a daily basis, or a long-term dream goal, so I don't really feel the need to make New Year's resolutions."

(Well, she would like a top-10 result in the New Year, Keith added. That's more of a wish than a vow.)

For a couple of local athletes, 2009 will bring changes. Toronto-based sailors Kevin Sittle and Oskar Johansson, who came fourth at the Beijing Olympics in the two-man Tornado catamaran class, have to decide what to focus on now because the International Olympic Committee cut their popular event in November from the 2012 Olympic program.

First, though, Sittle, who is coaching snowboarding, will undergo an MRI test on his shoulder next week to assess whether he'll need surgery to repair a nagging injury. He's considering a return to his original sport of windsurfing.

Meanwhile, Johansson is heading to Florida this month to try out a new boat class, the Star keelboat, and a new teammate, Ivan Bunner.

"I'm debating whether I should retire or keep going, and the only way to solve that sort of indecision is to try something else and see where it goes," Johansson said. "To leave off where we did and start from scratch is a pretty big mountain to climb. I'm excited but I don't have huge expectations."

Recognize your coach

The Coaches Association of Ontario is accepting nominations for its 2008 Coaching Excellence Awards in five different categories from grassroots to high performance. Completed nomination forms and supporting documents must be received by Jan. 9 at 4 p.m.

The awards will be presented at a reception at the Ontario Coaches Conference on Feb. 21 at the Sheraton Parkway Hotel in Richmond Hill. Full details at: www.coachesontario.ca.


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