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Column: Yukon skier reflects on nationals

Minty Bradford
Minty Bradford (middle) is seen with team mates after winning her first national title in cross-country skiing at the Canadian National Ski Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Courtesy/Nathaniel Mah, Nordiq Canada)

Minty Bradford

Special to the News

Editor’s Note: This is the final of four columns by Yukon cross-country skier Minty Bradford, reflecting on her experiences training and racing this winter.

Last week I participated in my second Canadian National Ski Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont.

I competed in the U16 girl’s category with some girls a year older than me, some my age and a few a year younger. I raced for the Yukon with most of my teammates also being part of the Canada Winter Games in Prince Edward Island earlier in the month.

It was a fun experience to be with these teammates for almost three weeks, but we also had to make sure to take time to ourselves so we wouldn’t be too tired for the next set of races.

My first race at the nationals was a 7.5-kilometre interval start skate race. It was my second time racing this distance but my first time racing it in the skate technique as opposed to the classic technique. I placed third in this race and was really happy about how it went because I felt that I had pushed myself very hard on the hills where it counted. This result was good for me as it was my first time this season racing in the U16 category in Canada and to see that I was competing for the top spots boosted my confidence going into the next races.

Two days later I won my second race, a skate sprint. This result was my first national title. It was very exciting to cross the finish line because everyone around me has been supportive in getting to this moment for a long time.

It was a happy moment to accomplish the win, because I came so close last year and have been training more than ever to race this season.

My third race was a team sprint with my teammate Cheyenne Tirschmann. This team race of both U18 and U16 skiers was fun to have in the middle of the nationals. It consisted of a relay of laps of 900 metres, where I skied one lap followed by Tirschmann. We repeated it three times and finished 17th overall.

Although I fell on the first of my three laps, putting us behind, we were able to catch up. Tirschmann, as anchor, crossed the finish line in second place in the B final. Even though it wasn’t a medal position, I was still happy with the results because we both skied our best.

My last race at nationals was disappointing and difficult. It was a 10-km mass start in classic technique. The conditions were tough. It was rainy and warm, which makes waxing and skiing difficult. After the past few weeks, and seven races, I knew my body was really tired.

I could not get my skis to glide as well as I wanted. I tried as much as I could at the beginning to stay with the lead pack, but they were skiing much faster than me.

Overall, my technique was not great and I just couldn’t keep up.

For most of the race I skied by myself and was able to pass a few people, but ended up finishing over two minutes behind the leader. When I finished I really upset as I had expected it to be my strongest race.

It was hard to see the result at the end of the week after my first two races ended with podium finishes. During the race my body was exhausted and although I felt I was skiing as fast as I could, I did not feel like I was pushing as hard as I had earlier. I felt powerless, tired and just couldn’t find enough energy to chase after the girl in front of me.

Despite this poor last race result, in overall standings I finished third, a result that makes me happy as it is an improvement from last year where I finished sixth. Overall, the experience at nationals was very positive with some highs and lows, and some specific goals I will work on for next season.

As the 2022/2023 race season comes to an end, I will have a month of rest and recovery in April before getting ready for the new training season beginning in May. The nationals in Thunder Bay showed me exactly what I need to improve on over the summer to be ready for better performances next race season. Specifically, I will need to focus on my technique, especially in classic skiing, so I can improve my movements and body position to ski more effectively.

Once I return home from France in July, my hope is to spend some time with coaches working on specific skills and attend training camps to prepare for the next race season.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me this season: family, friends, teammates, and coaches as well as the Northern Lytes Youth Development fund and the Yukon High Performance Athlete Assistance Program. I would like to thank Yukon News for this opportunity to share my experience of racing and training as a young athlete.