A handful of Yukoners traveled to Val Cartier, Quebec, to compete at the NorAm Canada Cup, which doubled as the trials for the World Junior Championships and the World Under 23 Championships.
However, despite strong performances from each Yukoner, only Dahria Beatty and Emily Nishikawa earned spots on the Canadian team for the two championships, both of which will begin January 24 in
Of her three events, Beatty produced two fourth-place finishes, coming in the 10-kilometre pursuit (half classic and half skate technique) and in the 10-kilometre classic.
Remarkably, Beatty, 15, was racing up an age category in the junior women division and will compete in the World junior Championships.
“It is quite an accomplishment,” said Alain Masson, head coach for the Yukon Cross-Country Ski Team. “It doesn’t happen too often, that 15-year-old athletes qualify for junior world championships.”
After missing most of last season due to an injury, Nishikawa came first in the sprint (skate technique), securing a spot on the Canadian team for the World Under 23 Championships. She also took third and fourth
in her other events.
“She’s been a strong skier for a long time, but missed the world junior championships last year, in her last year as a junior,” said Masson. “Because of her injury she could only train using the classic technique and
only for short periods of time.
“She had surgery this fall and now she’s healthy and can train well. So it’s nice to see her back at the top of her age group.”
Nishikawa’s brother, Graham Nishikawa, 26, also reached the podium, winning silver medals in both the 30-kilometre pursuit and in the 15-kilometre classic. He also took fourth in a sprint race.
Although failing to achieve top results in last month’s Olympic trials, Graham still has a chance, although small, at making the Olympics once the team learns of the number of skiers it will be allowed to submit.
“There’s a new system with the International Ski Federation,” said Masson. “The entire cross-country ski field at the Olympics can accommodate only 300 skiers. So each nation will have quotes given to them
based on their results internationally.
“Canada is waiting for the final answer from the Federation. On January 18 we will find out how many athletes we can bring.
“I think it’s extremely small,” added Masson, speaking of Graham’s chances of getting on Canada’s Olympic team.
An obvious favourite for making the jumior team, Whitehorse’s Janelle Greer, 16, had a disappointing start to the NorAm event but finished her stay in Val Cartier by skiing to a silver medal in the 10-kilometre
“Janelle unfortunately got sick the day after Christmas, so she was still sick in the first two races and was struggling to race well,” said Masson. “She was close, but not close enough. Had she been healthy she
may have had a chance.”
Whitehorse’s Knute Johnsgaard, 17, secured two top-10 finishes in the junior men division, coming seventh in the 20-kilometre pursuit and 10th in the 15-kilometre classic.
“These were really good races for Knute,” said Masson. “He’s only been racing nationally for a year and he’s fairly young still.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com