There are a total of 25 spots available on Canada’s national cross-country ski teams, counting both senior and junior, and Yukoners occupy five of them.
That’s more than BC and Ontario combined.
Cross Country Canada announced this week that siblings Graham and Emily Nishikawa have been selected for the senior team while fellow Whitehorse skiers Dahria Beatty, Janelle Greer and Knute Johnsgaard have all been invited back onto the junior squad.
Emily Nishikawa, the only first-timer out of the five Yukoners, is thrilled by the heightened level of training she will be exposed to.
“I’m super excited about it,” said the 21-year-old. “It’s definitely very cool to get on the national team.
“Being on the national team provides me with more opportunities to go to more camps. It’ll give me faster girls to train with.”
Emily has both speed and versatility. Currently ranked sixth in Canada for distance racing and seventh for sprints, Emily captured three of the Yukon’s five medals at the Canada Winter Games in February, winning a gold in a 7-.5-kilometre race and a bronze in a sprint. She has also competed in the last two U-23 World Cross-Country Championships, taking 27th in the sprint this year in Germany.
For Graham Nishikawa, the position on the team comes after a lengthy absence. The 27-year-old, who holds the No.5 ranking for distance events in Canada, was last on the team in 2005. However, after becoming the NorAm Cup champion this season, and taking in a top-30 results at a World Cup even in Sweden, Graham was brought back on.
“It’s always an honour to be nominated to the team, so I’m super happy,” said Graham. “It’s kind of coming as a surprise to me. I didn’t know what the national selection committee would decide, but I guess I had a great season and I have the potential to help the nation.”
While on the team, Graham will be rubbing shoulders with some big names, such as cross-country stars Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey.
“It definitely helps out with getting opportunities to go to the training camps with the other guys on the team,” said Graham. “It’s huge to get to train with them – two of them are world champions this year. Training with those guys – if you are competitive with them, you’re competitive with the best in the world.”
For the juniors, all of whom represented the Yukon at the Canada Winter Games, it’s the second year in a row on the team.
Beatty took a 25th-place finish in a race at the Junior Cross Country Ski Championships in Hinterzarten, Germany, in January, before winning three medals at the 2011 Haywood Ski Nationals in Canmore, Alberta, in March.
Greer also took in hardware at the Haywood Nationals, winning two golds, including one with Emily Nishikawa in a team event.
For the boys, Johnsgaard was the only sYukon male to reach a final at the Haywoods, in the sprint, and also came 21st in the junior men 30-kilometre skate.
The Nishikawas will train in Canmore during the offseason, looking towards starting the season with a World Cup event in November.
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