For an eighth year in a row Yukoners skied for Canada at the FIS Nordic World Junior/U23 Ski Championships and as usual they were among the leaders on the team.
Yukon Ski Team’s Natalie Hynes and Kendra Murray both placed second out of Canadians in races at the championships last week in Rasnov, Romania.
“Going to the championships was an incredible experience I will never forget,” said Hynes in an email to the News. “Right from the start all the way through to the last day when the team split up to go home, I was having an amazing time ... Having the chance to represent Canada for the championships was inspiring! Even if I was not having a perfect day or if I was not feeling good, simply reminding myself I was wearing the Canadian jacket was enough to put a smile on my face.”
“I am happy with the effort I put in as I was sick before the championships and was not feeling 100 per cent during the races,” said Murray in an email. “I feel I did the best with how I was feeling at the time. I am not thrilled with my results, but sometimes things do not go as planned, and you have to work with what is given to you at the time!”
Murray, who was racing in U23, placed 43rd in the 10-kilometre classic with a time of 34:16.9 on Feb. 23. She then took 45th in the 10-kilometre free at 26:35.7 on Feb. 25. She was second out of four Canadians in both distance races. The 22-year-old also claimed 47th in the 1.3-kilometre free sprint on Feb. 22.
“I think the most memorable for me is the 10-kilometre classic race - it was the race I was most looking forward to, but the day of the race was anything but ideal conditions,” said Murray. “The snow was super slushy, and it was very sunny and warm so the race was definitely a challenge! However, the most memorable thing about the race was that I had the chance to ski with many of the other girls on course ... and skied a lap with one of the fastest girls out there, which was pretty cool!”
Hynes, who skied in the junior division, finished with her best result. She placed 56th in the 10-kilometre free at 27:08.1 on Feb. 25 and was second on Canadian team.
She also placed 58th in the five-kilometre classic - placing third out of four on the Canadian team - on Feb. 23 and 70th in the sprint on Feb. 22.
Surprisingly, the race that stands out in her mind was the one without a finish.
“The relay race definitely stands out for me the most because it’s just such a fun atmosphere!” said Hynes. “It was the only mass start of the series of races so it was interesting to get to ski closely with other athletes from around the world. Unfortunately, two of the girls who were supposed to race on the Canada relay team were sick so we didn’t end up having a full team. Luckily the first leg skier and I were still allowed to do our part of the relay. Although it was kind of sad not to have anybody to hand off to once I had finished, I am still glad I had the opportunity to race.”
Last week marked Hynes’ first world championship. Hynes, who will race for Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games next week in Greenland, is eligible to compete at two more world championships in the junior division.
“We’ve only had a handful of athletes who have been able to qualify that young,” said Yukon Ski Team head coach Alain Masson in a recent interview. “It’s unusual; it doesn’t happen too often.”
Murray skied for Canada at the 2013 Winter World University Games in Italy. She has also raced for Canada at three Junior World Orienteering Championships.
Murray won a bronze and Hynes placed eighth in the 7.5-kilometre classic at the 2015 Canada Winter Games just over a year ago in Prince George, B.C. They both skied on Yukon’s bronze winning 4x3.75-kilometre relay team at the Games.
“I went to world juniors with a very open mind about what it would be like. I knew from the beginning that results weren’t my focus, but the most important part was to just enjoy myself and learn along the way,” said Hynes. “All I was really hoping for from the races was to gain valuable racing experience and to have fun! I certainly did this! Even if I was much closer to the back than when I am in Canada, I loved every second of it.”
“I would just like to thank everyone here at home for the support I have received!” said Murray. “It is such an amazing feeling to know that a whole community is behind you and is wishing you all the best.”
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