Whitehorse skier Graham Nishikawa has done it again – a third consecutive time to be specific.
Skiing at the Eastern Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships in Cantley, Quebec at the end of last week, Nishikawa, and his sister Emily, outpaced the competition over the three-day, mini-tour event to win gold in their open divisions.
For Graham, the gold medal is also a ticket.
By winning at the Easterns, Graham has now finished the Haywood NorAm season series in first for the third consecutive year. As a result, Graham earned Canada’s spot at the World Cup events in Scandinavia next month.
“This time was probably more competitive because there were some really good skiers who were chasing (the berth),” said the 28-year-old. “It came down to that last race, but I clearly showed I was the guy to win (the spot at the World Cups).”
In the three-stage race, Graham took first by 10 seconds in a three-kilometre prologue, placing him at the front of the pack to start the second day’s sprint race, in which he finished second. Still in front of the standings after the two times were combined, Graham motored out from the start line on the final 30-kilometre race, not once ceding his lead.
“I basically skied solo, away from the field, and won by two minutes, so it was an extremely good race for me,” said Graham. “I basically went from the gun and nobody caught up with me. The rest of the guys kind of formed a chase-pack – they were trying to chase me down – but I was really strong that day.
“And it’s definitely a good day when your sister also wins.”
Graham, who also won two gold medals at last year’s Easterns, will begin the World Cup circuit mid-March, first heading to Latvia, Finland, then off to Sweden for five races.
“I’m just going to train really hard right now and hopefully I will have a great end to the season,” said Graham. “Over the past three weeks, I’ve won five races out of nine, so it was really good racing for me, for three weeks. Winning a race in Canada by two minutes shows I’ll hopefully be up there in the World Cups. So I’m really excited to try my hand against the best in the world now.”
Out doing her brother, Emily won all three of her races at the Easterns on her way to gold. After winning the opening two, Emily, like her brother, stayed out in front, expanding a 17-second lead to over a minute.
“I’m really happy that I had a great weekend and everything went really well,” said Emily. “I’m happy to be skiing well and I’m pretty excited about it.”
Emily will be one of 10 Yukon cross-country skiers in Halifax next week for the second half of the Canada Winter Games. Her second appearance at the Games, Nishikawa, along with other returners Janelle Greer and Heidi Brook, won bronze in the 4×3.75-kilometre relay race in 2007.
“I’m really looking forward to Halifax,” said Emily. “I’m still in Ottawa training for the week, so I didn’t have to fly back out west. I fly to Halifax on Friday and I’m getting really excited.”
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