Illness bumps Nishikawa out of her best event in Sochi

Thursday was supposed to be Emily Nishikawa's big day in Sochi. Instead, she didn't even put on a pair of skis.

Thursday was supposed to be Emily Nishikawa’s big day in Sochi. Instead, she didn’t even put on a pair of skis.

The Whitehorse cross-country skier sat out the women’s 10-kilometre classic on Thursday due to a cold-bug she’s picked up at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

“Ya, it was definitely disappointing to miss the 10-kilometre, but I am feeling better every day!” said Nishikawa in an email to the News. “I am optimistic that I will be healthy enough to start in the relay and the 30-kilometre. Looking forward to lots more racing to come!”

Not only is the 10-kilometre classic her best event, it is the event that landed her a spot on Canada’s Olympic team.

She took first place in the event at the Olympic trials last month in Canmore, Alta., before taking sixth in the 15-kilometre skiathlon.

For the benefit of her team, Nishikawa’s spot in the race was handed to a teammate. Canada’s Brittany Webster placed 42nd, Daria Gaiazova 44th, Amanda Ammar 55th and Heidi Widmer 57th in a field of 75 skiers in the 10-kilometre race.

Nishikawa led the Canadian team in the 15-kilometre skiathlon last Saturday in her first Olympic race of her career.

The 24-year-old came 42nd ahead of Webster and Ammar, who placed 51st and 55th, respectively.

“I was really happy with my race,” she told the News following the event. “I had such an incredible experience at my first Olympic race. It was an amazing atmosphere, beautiful day and I was able to have a great race.”

With convalescence, Nishikawa could race in the women’s 4×5-kilometre relay on Saturday and the 30-kilometre skate on Feb. 22. However, the official decision will be made by the team in the days leading up to the races.

This is not the first illness to hamper Nishikawa at a major international event.

Both she and her brother Graham fell ill at the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, last March. Emily placed 57th in two races for her best finishes.

“She’s fighting a cold, that’s why she’s not starting,” said Graham. “It’s a bit of a bummer.

“It’s definitely not a bad cold, so we’re hoping, by skipping this one, she’ll be able to start the relay and the 30-kilometre.”

The 30-kilometre mass start free technique race “is in a week, so she has lots of time,” he added. “She’d get really sick if she tried to race (the 10-kilometre). Unfortunately that’s her main event.”

Emily is the first Yukon cross-country skier to compete at the Olympics since Jane Vincent and Lucy Steele at the Albertville Games in 1992.

Contact Tom Patrick

at tomp@yukon-news.com