Emily Nishikawa nears spot on Sochi team

Emily Nishikawa has taken a large stride towards landing a spot on Canada's Olympic team.

Emily Nishikawa has taken a large stride towards landing a spot on Canada’s Olympic team.

The Whitehorse cross-country skier took first place in the open women’s 10-kilometre classic in the Haywood NorAm and Buff Sprints – the final selection races for Canada’s Olympic team – on Thursday in Canmore, Alta.

“It was a great race for me so I’m very excited,” said Nishikawa. “But there’s one more to go – one more distance race on Sunday – so I’m going to stay focused for that, do the best recovery I can and prepare as well as I can.”

The 24-year-old member of Canada’s development team completed the race in 32:32.1, almost a full minute ahead of second place finisher, Brittany Webster, who competed for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

“I had big lead in this race, I just pushed as hard as I could,” said Nishikawa. “I’m so very happy with how I raced today.”

Another top finish in Sunday’s 15-kilometre skiathlon would likely be enough to make Nishikawa Sochi bound.

She began the Olympic trials with fifth place in the open women’s 1.3-kilometre free sprint on Wednesday.

Nishikawa hadn’t decided whether or not she will compete in a second sprint race on Saturday when she spoke to the News Thursday afternoon.

Odds of two Nishikawas representing Canada in Sochi are not looking good.

Brother Graham Nishikawa placed seventh in the open men’s 15-kilometre classic on Thursday.

Surprisingly the 30-year-old distance skier had a much better result the previous day, placing third in the open men’s 1.7-kilometre free sprint.

“It’s a good result, I was doing it in preparation for tomorrow,” said Graham on Wednesday following the sprint race.

Graham will need a top finish in Sunday’s 30-kilometre skiathlon to stay in the running for a spot on the Olympic team.

Three women and four men skiers, none of whom are racing in Canmore this week, have already been nominated for Canada’s Olympic team. (Dasha Gaiazova, Perianne Jones and Chandra Crawford for the women, Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, Ivan Babikov, Lenny Valjas for the men.)

Team Canada can take a maximum of 12 skiers to the Games next month in Sochi, Russia.

“I think there are two spots for women and two spots for men, so they’ll probably take a distance and a sprint (skier),” said Emily.

Also competing at the trials are Whitehorse’s Knute Johnsgaard and Colin Abbott of the Yukon Elite Squad.

Johnsgaard placed 13th in the open men’s sprint Wednesday and 14th in the 15-kilometre classic Thursday.

Abbott darted to ninth place in the sprint and 25th in the classic.

Chances of making the Olympic team are slim, but Johnsgaard is also shooting for a spot at the World U23 and World Junior Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, at the end of the month.

Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty is hoping to qualify for her third junior worlds in Canmore. Beatty, who is in her last year of eligibility, took second place in the junior women’s five-kilometre classic on Thursday.

Beatty was one spot up from Whitehorse skier Annah Hanthorn, who moved to the Yukon from N.W.T. during the off-season and is also vying for a spot at the junior worlds.

The last Yukon cross-country skiers to compete at the Olympics were Jane Vincent and Lucy Steele at the Albertville Games in 1992. Yukon has never had a male skier make the Olympics.

Canada’s Olympic cross-country team will be announced on Tuesday.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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