A nasty stomach bug couldn’t keep the Yukon Ski Team from collecting a bundle of top-10 finishes and seven medals at the 2015 Western Canadians Haywood NorAm last week.
The virus hindered the majority of skiers who came down from Whitehorse for the event, said Yukon Ski Team head coach Alain Masson.
“We had a terrible bout of sickness and we had 10 of the 12 skiers from Whitehorse sick with some type of stomach flu,” said Masson. “So a lot of the kids did not start or started and did not finish. Some raced but raced poorly because of the bug they were fighting. So results were way down from usual for this level.”
Whitehorse Olympian Emily Nishikawa continued her fantastic season with a pair of gold medals. The 25-year-old won gold in the open women’s 10-kilometre classic on Thursday in a set of senior races held in Lake Louise to prepare for a FIS World Cup event to be held there next season. She then won gold in the women’s 15-kilometre free mass start on Sunday in Canmore, Alta., winning by 1:27.5 over second place’s Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt of Quebec. She also won the B final to place seventh overall in Saturday’s senior women’s 1.3-kilometre free sprint.
Nishikawa has been selected to compete at her second FIS World Ski Championships next month in Falun, Sweden, the News has learned. She made her qualifying times while racing the FIS World Cup circuit at the end of the year in Europe. Nishikawa raced to career-best 29th in the women’s 10-kilometre classic in a World Cup in Davos, Switzerland, last month.
“I’m really excited to go back,” said Nishikawa in a recent interview with the News. “I’ve had some good results on the World Cup early this season and I’m just looking to improve on those, especially at the world championships.
“I have big goals this time around. Two years ago I think it was just to get the experience and now I have lots of experience on the international scene that I’m ready to go out there and get the best results I can.”
Nishikawa wasn’t the only Yukoner to reach the top of the podium at westerns.
Whitehorse’s Annah Hanthorn skied to gold in the junior women’s 1.3-kilometre free sprint on Saturday. The 20-year-old also raced to ninth in the women’s classic on Thursday in Lake Louis – finishing as the top junior – but caught the bug and missed Sunday’s mass start race.
Teammate Dahria Beatty came away with two medals. Beatty won bronze in the open women’s classic in Lake Louise and bronze in the 15-kilometre free on Sunday in Canmore, but missed the podium with sixth in Saturday’s sprint.
Yukon Elite Squad’s Knute Johnsgaard avoided the stomach bug and picked up a medal. The 22-year-old won bronze in the senior men’s 1.3-kilometre free sprint on Saturday, less than four seconds behind the gold medalist.
Johnsgaard, Beatty and Hanthorn were recently named to the Canadian team for the FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships early next month in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Whitehorse’s Natalie Hynes was one of the few to stay healthy and her results show it. Hynes captured silver in the junior girls’ five-kilometre classic on Friday when the championships moved from Lake Louise over to Canmore. She also claimed seventh in the junior girls sprint on Saturday – winning the B final – and fifth in the 10-kilometre free Sunday.
Other top-10 results for the Yukon Ski Team include: Hannah Deuling seventh in the juvenile girls five-kilometre Friday; Simon Cash eighth in the junior boys five-kilometre classic Friday; Graham Nishikawa ninth in the open men’s 20-kilometre free Sunday; Hannah Shier 10th in the juvenile girls half-kilometre sprint Saturday; Mira Mason 10th in the juvenile girls five-kilometre Friday.
“It was so sad to see so many of the kids who came down from Whitehorse getting sick Friday morning before their first race,” said Masson. “It started with four or five Friday morning and by yesterday almost everybody was hit by the bug.”
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