We were sitting in Les Boys de St-Fe’s place, talking about him, his goals for the up coming season, his dreams.
The first thing I noticed about Raphaël Couturier is the way he looks at you. Straight, intense, studious, he listens, eyes barely blinking.
And then he talks with this quiet, somewhat soft spoken voice and I couldn’t help thinking, how can that be? Just a couple of hours ago I was watching an animal doing sprints on rollerskis, an erupting volcano. I mean, this guy takes off. Literally.
Raphaël, 20, is the epitome of a new generation of cross-country skiers. He’s built like a fridge, a powerhouse who can dominate sprints AND has the endurance to excel in distances. The total package.
«True, he seems more built than others, says Centre national d’entraînement Pierre Harvey (CNEPH) coach and fitness expert Charles Castonguay. But in the last few years, he has lost a lot of unnecessary muscle mass by balancing work more wisely in the gym and on the skis. I believe that Raphaël’s morphology is a model for future skiers. Not only is he muscular, he’s also very powerful. We can see that in the gym and on the skis.»
So much a model that this summer, it was decided that Alex Harvey needed more muscle to gain more consistency for the up-coming season and Olympics. Where Raphaël needed to shave some unnecessary muscle, Alex needed to gain more. And who’s the fitness brain behind all of this? Who creates these highly specialized programs and supervises them? Yup, Charles Castonguay.
Raphaël has just moved up last April to the senior canadian x-c ski team (development). A huge step forward in his career. It doesn’t happen very often that a junior male skier is upgraded directly into the senior national team. Every few years.
«It means that this year, I’ll be representing the national team in every race, says Raphaël. It doesn’t mean that I will be automatically picked for World Cups, but being on the national senior team, especially in this Olympic year, I will get a lot of extra support.»
Extra support like in team work. And when it comes to team work and teammates, «Raph», as his friends call him, is your man.
«Raph» is not your go-go-go-push-push-push kind of guy. Doesn’t yell much. But he’s a team guy all right.
Last winter, after one of the girls’ race at the Eastern Canada Championships, Cendrine Browne was picking up her skis in the arrival zone, still breathing hard, into her own world like skiers can be moments after their performance, when this guy leaning on the fence caught her attention: «Hey Cendy, nice going.» It was Raph, with his soft voice. He had watched her race. Cendrine walked up to the fence and they talked. Beautiful moment. Teammates. That’s what Raph is all about. Da Team. Being part of the team. Living your dream.
But this man is for real. This athlete has an insatiable will to grow, to learn, get better, and reach the top.
And that’s exactly where he’s headed.