The cross-country skiing season came to an unceremonious end on March 12 with a number of cancellations due to the coronavirus disease 2019.
In a press release that morning, Nordiq Canada announced the cancellation of the 2020 Canadian Ski Championships originally scheduled for March 25 to April 2 at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Ski Club near Vernon, B.C.
That same day, the FIS announced that the cross-country World Cup event in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the final in Canmore, Alta., were also cancelled.
Another blow came late in the evening when Nordiq Canada announced that Team Canada would not compete at the remaining World Cup event in Quebec this weekend, March 13 to 15.
Finally, the FIS announced the cancellation of the Quebec World Cup in the early morning hours of March 13.
Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty was in Quebec preparing for the World Cup.
“I came into this knowing that I wasn’t necessarily going to get to a start line this weekend,” said Beatty. “It’s kind of a weird feeling preparing for something, but also not really being sure if you’re actually preparing for anything or not.”
Competing on home soil had been a focus for Beatty this season, and the cancellations mean that won’t happen this season.
“Obviously as an athlete it’s disappointing to not be able to race at home in front of friends and family,” said Beatty. “But you just have to look at it from a bigger picture and understand what’s going on right now and that this is the best choice for everyone.”
As recently as a couple weeks ago it felt like the situation was contained to Europe and the North American events would happen as planned, Beatty said.
“Over the last week, things have progressed so quickly that coming here … I definitely knew there was a very high possibility the event would be cancelled just due to the very quick progression of everything that was happening,” said Beatty.
Alain Masson, head coach of Team Yukon, said the cancellation of the Canadian championships means the 10 skiers and three coaches planning to head to Sovereign Lake will be staying put.
“Everybody was registered, tickets bought, house booked — everything,” said Masson. “We’re going to try to figure out now what happens, what’s our next move, because we have no idea what’s going to happen with all these expenses.”
The races at the championships typically play a major role in athlete rankings, national team selections and funding opportunities, so this cancellation raises more questions on that front.
“Typically, the national ski team establishes a selection ranking list and they identify the top four races of the season,” said Masson. “Many athletes would potentially use races during the nationals to be part of that selection process.”
He said those impacts will be felt by all skiers, but will have a particular impact on the Yukon.
“For us Yukoners who don’t compete as regularly outside the Yukon, it has an even greater impact because the races we do here are not regarded by anybody in terms of performance indicator, whereas there are many more races in different provinces that are,” said Masson, adding that it will also affect athletes who receive funding through the Yukon government’s elite athlete and high-performance athlete funding.
There are currently seven Yukon skiers receiving high-performance funding, Masson said, not counting the funding received by Olympians Emily Nishikawa and Beatty.
Masson said this is the first time he can recall where the Canadian championships were cancelled outright.
“As far as I know, no ski national has ever been totally cancelled,” said Masson. “It has been postponed, delayed, moved to other locations, but now it’s basically all cross-country ski racing on the planet is coming to an end this weekend.”
The championships were to be the final event on the calendar for Canadian skiers, scheduled late in the year to allow for national team skiers to participate.
Now, the racing season is over.
“We won’t find any sanctioned races anywhere anymore, not that we would want to travel with all the recommendations from all the governments,” said Masson.
He said there is a plan in place, however, to hold an event on March 14 to celebrate not only the 10 skiers who were selected for nationals, but the skiers who were picked to compete at the Arctic Winter Games.
There will be a ski hockey tournament at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club on March 14 from noon to 2 p.m. Signup for the event is at noon, with the tournament starting at 12:30 p.m. In order to participate, athletes are asked to bring a hockey jersey and hockey stick if possible as well as an older pair of skis.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at email@example.com