For the second time in three years, Whitehorse skier Emily Nishikawa is the champion of Eastern Canada.
With just seconds to spare, Nishikawa took first in the open women division of the Haywood Eastern Canadian Championships on Sunday in Cantley, Quebec.
The 23-year-old, who won the championship in 2011, took first in the three-race mini-tour championship with a lead of 5.5 seconds.
Nishikawa placed fourth in the 1.6-kilometre sprint on Friday and won bronze in the 10-kilometre free on Saturday. Those results put her in second to start Sunday’s 15-kilometre classic race – the champion race.
She had the second fastest time on Sunday, but finished with the lowest time over the three races to win the mini-tour and achieve champion status.
“The overall is what we’re all shooting for,” said Nishikawa. “It’s the big prize.”
Nishikawa finished the three days of racing with a combined time of one hour, 16 minutes and 21.3 seconds, just 5.5 seconds up from Ottawa’s Kate Brennan and 6.8 up from Canmore’s Amanda Ammar.
“It went really well. The first couple of races I was still getting over a cold. So they were OK, considering I basically lay in bed all week and didn’t get any exercise,” said Nishikawa. “I felt better on Sunday so I went for it. I was able to get a bit of a lead at the very end there – there were three of us working together the whole race.”
Nishikawa, who recently qualified for the world championships, was joined at the eastern championship by over 550 skiers, including 10 other Yukoners.
Whitehorse’s Kendra Murray and Nishikawa’s brother, Graham, also finished on the podium.
Graham began the deciding 30-kilometre pursuit in fourth, after placing 11th in the sprint and second in Saturday’s 15-kilometre free for open men. It was another tight finish in the open men with Graham just 0.8 seconds behind the gold in the mini-tour.
Murray finished second overall in junior female in the mini-tour and 17th for open women. Murray placed second for juniors in the sprint and third on Saturday.
Whitehorse’s Colin Abbott, who just returned from competing at the U23 World Ski Championships in the Czech Republic, finished the championship in seventh for open men.
Also in open men, David Greer placed ninth, Knute Johnsgaard 13th, Lee Hawkings 36th, John Parry 51st and Logan Potter 69th overall.
Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty, who is still at the junior level, placed 14th in open women in the mini-tour. She placed ninth in the sprint and 19th in Saturday’s 10-kilometre free.
Last week both Nishikawas were named to Team Canada for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Feb. 20 to March 3.
Graham, 29, is the first male skier from the territory to qualify for the world championships and Emily is the first female Yukoner to make the worlds since Olympian Lucy Steele-Masson competed in 1997.
Emily could have lost the spot on Team Canada when she was too sick to compete at the second stage of trials two weeks ago in Duntroon, Ont. However, she was placed on the team because of her double-gold performance at the first stage of trials in Thunder Bay at the start of the year.
“I’m getting healthier now, feeling good, feeling strong,” said Emily. “So I just need a little bit of rest this week and I’ll be good to go.”
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