Two more Whitehorse skiers have been added to Canadian world championships teams, bringing the total to four.
Whitehorse Olympian Emily Nishikawa and Yukon Elite Squad’s Knute Johnsgaard will each compete at a worlds, the News has learned.
Nishikawa, 25, has been selected to compete at the 2015 FIS World Ski Championships next month in Falun, Sweden.
“I’m really excited to go back,” said Nishikawa. “I’ve had some good results on the World Cup early this season and I’m just looking to improve on those, especially at the world championships.
“I have big goals this time around. Two years ago I think it was just to get the experience and now I have lots of experience on the international scene that I’m ready to go out there and get the best results I can.”
Nishikawa, who competed at the 2013 world championships in Italy and the Sochi Olympics last year, made her qualifying times while racing the FIS World Cup circuit at the end of the year in Europe. She raced to career-best 29th in the women’s 10-kilometre classic in a World Cup in Davos, Switzerland, last month.
Johnsgaard is the third Whitehorse skier to be named to the Canadian team for the FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships next month in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty and Annah Hanthorn were pre-selected for the team after the first stage of trials last month.
Johnsgaard and Beatty will compete in the under-23 division and Hanthorn as a junior.
“It was kind of a relief because I expected to make it. I made it last year and you’d think I would improve,” said Johnsgaard. “I came really close to qualifying in some of the races.
“I didn’t know until yesterday, so it was good to finally hear the news that I made it because I was getting worried there for a while.”
Johnsgaard clinched a spot on the team with strong performances at the Haywood NorAm World Junior and U23 Trials/Ontario Cup #2 last week and over the weekend in Duntroon, Ont.
The 22-year-old, who is in his last year of eligibility for the U23 worlds, opened with a great finish in the senior men’s 30-kilometre skiathlon (classic and free technique) mass start race on Thrusday. Johnsgaard placed fourth overall and second for U23 skiers, just a minute behind the winner.
“That was a pretty good race for me. I had a bit of a cold over the weekend, so I was definitely happy to place fourth there,” said Johnsgaard.
“Normally fourth place (in open) would put you first in the under-23 category, but it just so happened another skier had the race of his life.”
Johnsgaard went on to take fifth in the senior men 1.8-kilometre classic Saturday and 12th in the open men’s 15-kilometre free Sunday.
Nishikawa was back on this side of the pond for the NorAm and won two gold. She finished first in the senior women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon on Thursday and first in the open women’s 10-kilometre free on Sunday. She also came fourth in the women’s 1.5-kilometre classic sprint in between.
“It’s great to be back. It was fun to see everyone again out at the races,” said Nishikawa. “It’s just fun to race in Canada again.
“We had really tough conditions on Thursday: it was cold and really windy, blowing snow. So it was a bit of a challenge. It was a mass start race, so I led the whole way and was kind of breaking trail for everyone. So I was working harder, but I was still able to come away with a 20-second victory.”
Hanthorn showed her versatility on the weekend. She won bronze in the junior women 1.5-kilometre classic sprint on Saturday and came fourth in the junior women five-kilometre free Sunday. She also placed 11th in Thursday’s senior women’s skiathlon.
Beatty placed top 10 in all three races for senior women. She came fifth in Thursday’s skiathlon, seventh in Saturday’s sprint and sixth in Sunday’s distance race.
Other top Yukon results from Duntroon include Marcus Deuling taking ninth out of 52 skiers in the junior men sprint; Colin Abbott ninth out of 44 skiers in senior men sprint; Kendra Murray 10th in the senior women’s skiathlon; Caelan McLean 15th in the junior men’s skiathlon; and Adrienne Hynes 19th in the junior women’s sprint.
“Two months ago we had three skiers we thought had a realistic chance qualifying, which was Dahria, Annah and Knute, and all three made it,” said Alain Masson, head coach of the Yukon Ski Team. “So we couldn’t ask for any better ending to the selections, so that’s great.”
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