It should be no surprise that a skier from a mountainous region like Yukon would excel at an uphill climb.
That’s what Whitehorse’s Knute Johnsgaard did to start the FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, last week.
Johnsgaard, who was racing in U23 men, led the Canadian team with a 14th place finish in the sprint event on Feb. 3, outpacing competition on the steep incline towards the finish.
“Overall I’m very happy with my performances in Kazakhstan,” said Johnsgaard in an email to the News. “The sprint race was my best result. There was a big hill near the end of the course, which suited me well. It was almost too steep to glide up so I kind of just ran/shuffled up it as fast as I could. I managed to move up a few positions from 16th to 14th in the heats so I was very happy.”
The Yukon Elite Squad skier then took 47th in the 15-kilometre free on Feb. 5 and once again led Canada with a 32nd place finish in the 30-kilometre skiathlon last Saturday.
“I’ve been to worlds three times and each time I’ve improved on my results so experience has definitely been valuable,” he said. “Kazakstan was actually quite similar to Turkey where I competed at my first world junior championship. Kazakhstan is not a skiing nation so it was very much a test event for the 2022 Olympics which Almaty is bidding for. They had less than ideal conditions to deal with.”
Johnsgaard was joined by fellow Whitehorse skiers Dahria Beatty and Annah Hanthorn in Almaty.
Beatty, who was competing in her fourth worlds but first for U23, also opened with her best finish. The 20-year-old led the Canadian team in the sprints, qualifying in 27th and finishing in 20th.
“I was happy with my sprint race, it is always great to get more international experience and I was able to fight with the other girls for the lead throughout the sprint,” said Beatty in an email to the News. “Unfortunately in the last 100 metres I wasn’t able to stay with the pace and finished fourth in my quarterfinal placing me 20th. I would have liked to have moved on to the semi-finals, but it was a good day overall.”
Beatty then skied to 30th in the 10-kilometre free on Feb. 5, despite breaking off part of the base of a ski on a rock.
She dropped out during the 15-kilometre skiathlon on Saturday.
“I was really looking forward to the skiathlon but the night before the race I came down with a stomach bug and was up the entire night sick,” said Beatty. “I tried to start the race and for the first 2.5 kilometres I was up with the lead group around 17th, but then having not been able to eat and having been sick caught up to me and my body shutdown, I had to drop out of the race when I started shaking and my vision was going blurry.”
Hanthorn, who is a member of the junior national team, posted consistent finishes in Almaty.
In what was her first junior worlds, she took 45th in the sprint, 44th in the five-kilometre free and 47th in the 10-kilometre skiathlon.
She finished the championships helping Canada’s junior team take 10th in the 4×3.3-kilometre relay.
With her strong results, Beatty has decided to stay overseas to race in Scandinavian Cups for her second year in a row.
Johnsgaard and Hanthorn have returned and are set to represent Yukon at the Canada Winter Games, which begin Saturday in Prince George, B.C. The cross-country events will take place in the second week of the Games, beginning on Feb. 23.
“I had the option of staying in Europe and racing the same Scandinavian Cups as I did last year, but I chose to come back and compete at Canada Games,” said Johnsgaard.
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