At the start of the world championships last week, Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa had a cold and was probably not expecting to set a pair of career-best finishes.
But with some convalescence, she did just that.
Nishikawa bounced back from the illness and skied two of her best races at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships last week in Falun, Sweden.
“I am really happy with my performances in Falun,” said Nishikawa in an email to the News. “The 10-kilometre skate was probably one of my best-ever races. To have a personal best performance at a major championship is not an easy thing to do, and I am really proud of how I skied in that race.”
Nishikawa raced to 30th place in the women’s 10-kilometre skate-ski race on Feb. 24. She then snagged 32nd in the women’s 30-kilometre classic mass start race last Saturday.
The 30th-place finish marks the 25-year-old’s best result in an international level skate race. She led two other Canadian team skiers with a time of 27:29.3.
She achieved this despite facing tougher conditions than most of the field.
“It was a pretty crazy race in terms of the weather,” said Nishikawa. “It started to dump snow halfway through the race, which slowed down the tracks substantially. Because it was an individual start race, those who started earlier were at an advantage to not ski through the new snow. I started near the end of the field, so it was snowing throughout my entire race and I still had my best result in a skate race.”
It seems Nishikawa’s skate (or free) technique is coming along. Nishikawa, who has always been stronger at classic technique, took 36th in a 10-kilometre skate race at a FIS World Cup in Sweden mid-February for her previous best at the international level.
“I feel like I am still stronger in classic, but my skate technique is getting pretty close,” said Nishikawa. “That is really exciting because I know I can be competitive in any distance race I start.”
Nishikawa took 29th in a 10-kilometre classic at a FIS World Cup in December, but her 32nd place on Saturday is her best for a 30-kilometre race. It’s another area of competition she’s getting stronger at, she said.
“The 30-kilometre classic race was by far my best international result in a 30-kilometre so I am very happy about that,” said Nishikawa. “Last year at the Olympics I was 47th, and last world championships I was lapped out. The 30-kilometre is such a hard race, and I am getting better at racing 30-kilometre (races) each time I finish one. I am happy with my improvement thus far, but I also know that I can be a lot better and that is very exciting and motivating.”
Seasonal illnesses are an unavoidable part of cross-country skiing – or any winter sport, for that matter. But Nishikawa seems to have particularly lousy luck with them when it comes to major events.
She struggled with a cold at her first world championships two years ago, and illness caused her to miss her best event at the Sochi Olympics last year and a skiathlon race at a World Cup last month.
“I seem to have terrible timing for catching colds!” said Nishikawa. “But I did a good job of recovering and got myself back to race shape for the last two races of world champs.”
With her newly minted career-bests under her belt, Nishikawa will now stay in Europe to finish off the World Cup season, racing in Lahti, Finland this weekend and Oslo, Norway the next. She’ll then cross the pond to compete at the Haywood Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ont., to cap the season. Nishikawa won two gold and a silver at the nationals last year, placing second in the aggregate standings for open women.
“A busy but exciting few weeks to cap off the season!” said added.
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