Two Yukon skiers wasted no time in climbing the leaderboard of the Haywood NorAm Race Series in B.C. last weekend.
Dahria Beatty and Knute Johnsgaard, both members of the junior national team, each medalled twice at the NorAm season opener at the Sovereign Lakes Nordic Centre, near Vernon.
Competing in the junior category, Beatty, 17, raced to silver in a 1.2-kilometre sprint and then gold in the 10-kilometre distance race.
Johnsgaard, 19, also in the junior category, won silver both days, beginning in the 1.4-kilometre sprint and then in the 15-kilometre distance event. All races were in classic technique.
“I was feeling healthy for my races … these were my first races outside of the Yukon this season,” wrote Beatty in an email to the News. “The sprint was a very close and exciting.
“The 10-kilometre classic was a hard race. I kept a consistent pace throughout and was able to push on the second of the two laps and finish strong. The silver medalist was 21 seconds behind me, but it was an individual race so I was racing by myself for most of the race. We had great skis for both races thanks to our coaches.”
Just spots behind Beatty in both races was fellow Yukoner and junior national team member Janelle Greer, taking fourth both days.
For Johnsgaard, the second silver was his third in a row; he took second in a 10-kilometre classic race at the Alberta Cup the previous weekend.
“I was really happy with both of them, they were both solid races,” said Johnsgaard. “I had high expectations, too, because I did well the week before and I was happy I could perform again. It was confirmation for me that it wasn’t just a fluke.
“The distance race felt good because my skis weren’t perfect, but I was still able to pull off a good race,” he added. “It was a hard course and it was hard to get grip on the uphills; it was a bit slippery.”
Johnsgaard, who competes for the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre in Quebec, was second in both races to his Pierre-Harvey teammate, Rafael Couturier.
“Me and him had a pretty big gap on the field,” said Johnsgaard. “It gives me faith in the training I’ve done over the summer.”
After winning gold at the Alberta Cup, Yukon’s Emily Nishikawa had some tougher competition with the influx of Americans into the senior female NorAm races. Nishikawa reached the A final of the sprints to take eighth and then finished ninth in the distance race – second for Canadians.
For senior men, Colin Abbott had the strongest result for Yukoners in the sprint, reaching the quarterfinal to take 13th. David Greer was the top Yukoner in the 15-kilometre event Sunday, taking 10th place.
On the other side of the pond, Whitehorse’s Graham Nishikawa represented Canada at the top international level in the World Cup. Competing in Davos, Switzerland, Graham produced his best finish so far this season, coming 34th out of 80 of the world’s top skiers in a 30-kilometre skate race. He was just three minutes, 15 seconds behind the gold medalist and was the second Canadian overall.
Beatty, Johnsgaard and a handful of other Yukon skiers will be back in action this weekend for the second segment of the NorAm series in Rossland, B.C., switching from classic technique to skating.
“I am excited for next weekend’s races and the fact that they are skating,” said Beatty. “It will be good to race both techniques during the time we are down here.”
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