It’s an uphill battle to become a king going downhill. Doing the math means twice the fight for Jasper’s Kertesz-Knight brothers, both of whom are top ranked Canadian downhill skiers for their ages.
Brothers Jesse Kertesz-Knight, 20, and Jake Kertesz-Knight, 18, have both been on skis since they were two and racing since they were still in elementary school. Alpine competition is in their blood, and they want to make their hometown proud.
“Jake and I are working super hard,” Jesse said. “We’re super motivated.”
Not only were they were born and raised in Jasper, but this is where they learned to ski, starting their early development with the Jasper Ski Team. Their training these days is a huge part of their lives, and that frequently takes them out of town to Banff and Canmore.
The brothers, along with Kendra Giesbrecht of St. Albert, make up the Banff Alpine Racers E-team, an elite division of the International Ski and Snowboard Federation program for qualifying postgraduate athletes to compete and national and international levels.
This training means not just year-round physical and mental conditioning. It also means training and racing for a minimum of 120 days on the snow plus an intense calendar of travel for more training and racing.
Any parent of athletes will read that and immediately start thinking about the logistics. Mike Kertesz said he and his wife, Louise, who is a Canadian Ski Team alumnus, are just as enthusiastic as their boys are.
There is no question about how supportive they are either. Determination is practically the family motto. It has to be, since many forces must be rallied to get any one athlete to the podium, let alone two in one family.
“The athlete needs the drive, and then finding everything around you is a really hard battle, but possible. These two guys are extremely lucky,” Mike said, noting that he also works in the ski racing business.
“From 16-years-old onwards, you’re a really, really small fish in a giant pond. Jesse and Jake at 16 were competing against World Cup guys as far as the point system and the ranking system in the world. So, you start at the bottom, and you just start chiseling your way up is how the system works.”
Enthusiasm doesn’t pay all the bills, however. On top of all those equipment and travel expenses, you pay for a coach and trainer as well as all the hill time for training.
There are four disciplines in alpine skiing: slalom, giant slalom, supergiant slalom (Super G) and downhill. Some of these require greater technical skills while the others are simply about pure speed.
“The future in ski racing is a big commitment,” Mike added.
The Kertesz-Knight brothers are pursuing their dreams of hopefully one day making the Canadian National Ski Team and skiing for Canada at the Milano-Cortino Winter Olympics set for 2026.
But that is years away. First, they must compete at the World Cup level. To get there, they must succeed on the NorAm Continental Cup circuit for the best 18- to 25-year-old skiers in Canada and the United States.
Right now, they are prepping for that circuit, which starts in Colorado on Dec. 10 and goes until March 2024. If they keep up their winning ways, they will make it to the World Junior Alpine Skiing Championships. That event, to be held in Austria in mid-January, functions like a Junior Olympics.
Both brothers are vying for their spots on that team.
“We’re putting everything we have into it, because we just want to give the kids the opportunity to keep on moving,” Mike said.
They also want to give Jasperites a chance to help Jake and Jesse focus on their training. They have crowdfunding pages at www.makeachamp.com/jakekerteszknight and www.makeachamp.com/jessekerteszknight where people can make donations and become a part of the winning team.
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 17, 2023 at 13:00