Beatty golden in first NorAm

It was a weekend of firsts for Whitehorse's Dahria Beatty - in more ways than one. Not only did Beatty compete in her first set of NorAm Canada Cup Race Series events, racing in her first ever 10-kilometre on Saturday,

It was a weekend of firsts for Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty – in more ways than one.

Not only did Beatty compete in her first set of NorAm Canada Cup Race Series events, racing in her first ever 10-kilometre on Saturday, she took home a first-place finish in the 1.1-kilometre sprint on Sunday at Sovereign Lakes, BC.

Making her results all the more impressive, Beatty, 15, was racing up a category in the junior female division against skiers four and five years older.

“I went into it not expecting anything and not knowing what to expect,” said Beatty. “I was surprised with how well I did.”

Taking silver in the sprint was Whitehorse’s Janelle Greer, 16, a junior national team member, who also finished 10th in Saturday’s race.

In the 10-kilometre free technique event, Beatty skied to a bronze, finishing in just over 33 minutes. The race used an individual start system, making it difficult for Beatty to know where she stood in the standings as the race played out.

“While I was racing, my coach would sometimes give me splits (time and placement updates), but you are kind racing your own race and you can’t tell how other people are doing,” said Beatty. “It was the first time I raced a 10-kilometre (race) so I tried not to go out too hard, so I’d still have energy left for my second lap.

“I thought I did a good job at pacing myself. I think I pushed myself pretty hard. The course had a lot of climbing in it, so it was a difficult course.”

For Yukon’s Olympic hopeful, Graham Nishikawa, 26, it was a disappointing weekend. Competing in a 15-kilometre skate on Saturday, Nishikawa came 10th overall and was the fourth Canadian.

“It was actually a pretty big disappointment for me,” said Nishikawa. “I was the top-ranked skier going into the race and if I had been the top Canadian, then I would be going to the Olympics.”

If Nishikawa wants to keep the Olympic dream alive, he will have to step things up next Tuesday in Canmore. BC.

“Obviously I’m disappointed, but there’s a another race coming up here in Canmore and the same thing goes: if I’m the top Canada, then I’ll go to the Olympics,” said Nishikawa.

“It’s pretty simple, but it’s a daunting task at the same time.”

Tuesday’s race is a 50-kilometre classic technique, the longest race in cross-country skiing, which suits Nishikawa’s long-distance temperament.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen because it’s such a long race and sometimes you can lose all your energy and other times you have great races,” said Nishikawa. “I’m pretty confident still – I have a full week to prepare for it. I just had a really terrible day (on Saturday).”

To start the season, Nishikawa competed in World Cup events in Norway, Finland, and the Scandinavian Cup in Sweden, producing his best result, a 15th-place finish out of 142 world class skiers in the 15-kilometre skate.

However, the European races had an impact on the Olympic trial races, keeping sharp his competitive edge while having to cope with a change in altitude.

“I just came from Europe and it was low altitude there. So we came to Silver Star (in Sovereign Lakes) just before the races and my body just wasn’t racing at its top speed,” said Nishikawa. “It felt really hard – the altitude affected my performance.”

Another strong results came from Whitehorse’s Colin Abbott, a junior national team member, who took fifth in the sprint in the junior male division on Sunday, a large improvement from his 25th-place result in the 15-kilometre skate the previous day.

“It is very good considering Colin is attending university in Ottawa and I think he only skied three times on snow prior to the weekend because they haven’t had any snow back east,” said Team Yukon head coach Alain Masson. “I think he was feeling a bit tired after exams at university and quite a huge amount of training this fall.”

For Yukon’s other junior male skiers, Jeff Wood came 23 in both races while Knute Johnsgaard was 11th the 10-kilometre and 24th in the sprint.

“For his first race at that level – he’s quite young for that category – he was quite happy with his results,” said Masson of the 17-year-old Johnsgaard.

In the senior (or open) males division, David Greer was 16th in the 15-kilometre skate and 14th for the sprint and Emily Nishikawa was 28th in the 10-kilometre skate and 31 in the sprint for senior women.

Representing the territory in the junior female division, Kendra Murray was 19th in the 10-kilometre skate and 18th in the sprint, followed closely by teammate Heidi Brook, who came 20th in the sprint.

Beatty started her season by winning her category in both Don Sumanik Memorial races in Whitehorse. At the Haywood Ski Nationals in March, Beatty won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the juvenile girls category. The previous month at the Western Canadian Championships, Beatty skied to two gold medals.

At the end of November she was named Territorial/National Female Athlete of the Year.

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