It was the race of their careers, said coach Alain Masson of the Yukon relay team’s bronze-medal finish.
“No, we weren’t expecting it,” he said. “Realistically, we were hoping fourth or fifth would be really good, but if everything came together and each of the skiers skied as well as they could, a medal was a possibility.
“Usually when you have four skiers it’s quite rare that all of them would have a very good race at the same time.
“It took each of the four skiers to have their best race of the week that day, which they did.”
The team had two 14-year-old skiers, Heidi O’Connon-Brook, who skied the second leg, and Janelle Greer who skied the race’s third leg.
It also had two nationally experienced skiers – Bryn Knight, who led the team in the four- by 3.75-kilometre relay and Emily Nishikawa, who skied the last leg of the race catching and beating a Quebec skier.
“It was very exciting, actually,” said Masson. “Emily caught up very quickly. In the first kilometre she had already caught the skier from Quebec.”
In the second kilometre of the last leg, she had built a comfortable lead, he added.
“I think we finished with about a 30-second lead, which is quite comfortable on such a short distance.”
Everybody had a great race and I’m so proud for the team, said Bryn Knight.
“It was so tense waiting for Emily to come over that hill,” she said.
With strong skiers, a lot of athletic confidence and the team knowing they have great skiers leading them, they were able to combine their four individual strengths and keep it together as a team, said Masson.
“It’s four individual skiers coming together, but if they can have that team dynamic, that positive attitude and that self-confidence they can produce great results,” he said.
Heidi O’Connor-Brook is ecstatic with the team’s bronze place finish.
It really sunk in when she went to the closing ceremonies and saw all of the other athletes.
“I’m one of them, and that the Yukon has got five medals and, for me to be one of them, I’m quite happy,” said O’Connor-Brook.
The team events are great because everybody works and warms up together, and cheers each other on, she said.
“Everyone’s just so excited and then when you’re skiing you think ‘OK, this is a team, I got to do this,’ kind of helps motivate you too,” she said.
“I think it was also because of the attention we were getting from local people. When you come right down to the stadium there’s people you know cheering you on – just the whole excitement of everything.”
“It was just so exciting, I mean I looked beside me and there’s Alberta and, you know, they’ve got an amazing team — 21-year-olds — and then there’s BC and all the other teams, the guys’ teams too. So, yeah, it showed the Yukon team can do well.”