WHISTLER, BC – In December 2021, Alex Maycock sat in Davos, Switzerland, when the news he had feared came across his Instagram.
After preparing for months and travelling to Davos to acclimatize to the altitude, a worldwide surge in COVID-19 cases over the previous few weeks had forced the cancellation of the Lucerne 2021 FISU Winter Games.
For all the effort Maycock had put in, the chance to represent Canada against the world for a second time evaporated before he could clip into his skis. For the then 22-year-old, it was heartbreaking.
“I was ready for the Games and to test myself, and I had to fly back when they were cancelled. I was excited to see a decade and a half of hard work in Canada pay off at these Games,” Maycock told 49 Sports. “I felt as fit as I ever have, which was gut-wrenching.”
With his primary target cancelled and European departure imminent, he headed out for the snow and skied for hours. “We wanted to keep our minds occupied and enjoy the sport even though it wasn’t doing what we came here for.”
A native of Orangeville, Ontario, Maycock has skied and studied at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont. since 2017 and represented Canada for the first time at the Krasnoyarsk 2019 FISU Games. Next month, he is bound for the Lake Placid 2023 Games in Northern New York.
“As a 19-year-old going into those  games, there was a lot of uncertainty, I had never competed at an event like that before, so it was an eye-opener,” Maycock said. “The trails were part of the nicest ski facility I’ve ever seen, with stadium lights across the racecourse; it showed me what ski racing on the international stage can be.”
Although he was far off the podium in his first Games, with a 26th place finish in the sprint being his best result, returning to FISU as a veteran gives him hopes of medals and a chance to highlight his athletic career.
Changing paths and a chance to cap a career near home
Maycock now approaches the Lake Placid 2023 Games with a new mindset, reflecting on where he’s been and what’s to come. After completing his undergrad at Nipissing in Exercise and Environmental Physiology, he is working towards a master’s degree while also enjoying his final year of university athletics.
To cap off his university career with a FISU Games is near perfect for the elder statesman of the Canadian FISU nordic team.
“It’s going to be a huge moment for me,” he said about competing for Canada again. “It will be a nice culmination of years of hard work and all the people who have supported me through it.”
While his experience at the 2019 Games seemed to have put him on the pathway to a career in cross-country ski racing, his time at Nipissing has changed his ambitions. Now, his focus has shifted to coaching and physiology, making the 2023 Games the potential pinnacle of his athletic career.
“I went to Nipissing with hopes of becoming a gym teacher, but I’ve changed my target towards becoming a coach,” the now 23-year-old said. “It’s been just how important sport is to my life, and now I want to contribute to other athletes following that path.”
As much as the FISU Games and the life of a student-athlete is about athletics and moving to the next level, there’s an impetus for academic growth and moving onto a new stage in life. For Maycock, that includes targeting coaching while finishing his university career with his best possible performance.
In 2019, four Russian athletes finished ahead of him in the sprint. However, with Russian athletes barred from competing in Lake Placid, he can improve or even challenge for a medal.
“I’m feeling excellent, and the fitness is at a comparable level to last year, and I’m sure race readiness will continue to improve,” he said. “It’s an opportunity you need to capitalize on, and it’s going to give me a chance to compete with the other nations to see what I can do.”
After receiving the Lucerne 2021 cancellation news while sitting mere kilometres away from the competition venue, the chance to compete closer to home in North America for his final FISU Games is one that Maycock isn’t taking lightly.
And with his sights set on coaching and physiology in the future, the Games come with reflection on this chapter of his life.
“When I came to Nipissing as an 18-year-old, skiing was my life, and I’m happy with the effort I’ve put into it and am ready to have this big standoff in Lake Placid,” he said. “But my six years there have helped me realize that life can go many different ways, and because of how much sport has meant in my life.”