Father Jean-Marie Mouchet died in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, on December 2, 2013. He was 96. In the 1960s, he founded the Territorial Experimental Ski Training (TEST) program, which became an incubator for some of Canada’s top cross-country skiers.
Born in France in 1917, Mouchet started cross-country skiing at age 4. During World War II, he joined the French Resistance and survived a concentration camp. After the war, he emigrated to Canada, where he worked at missions in northern Yukon as an oblate priest. While living there, he established the TEST program to provide the indigenous Gwich’in community with “more self-esteem and confidence, motivation and a tool for the rest of their lives in a complex world.”
Four TEST skiers qualified for the Canadian national team. Two of them—Inuvik athletes Sharon and Shirley Firth—were the first aboriginal women to compete internationally as nordic skiers. They raced at four consecutive Olympics, starting in 1972. In 1993, Mouchet received the Order of Canada recognition for his work.
“He was 100 percent a ski coach and a priest,” said his former student Pavlina Sudrich in an interview with the Yukon News. She learned to ski through TEST and now coaches Ontario’s provincial cross-country team. “The way he believed in sport, the two were intrinsically linked for him. His expression of faith was through sport.” (Sources: FasterSkier.com, Yukon News, and the blog “Foxglove, Fireweed and Common Encounters”)