Nishikawa has golden start to season

While Yukon biathletes were winning medals, just down the road Yukon cross-country skiers were doing the same at the Alberta Cup in Canmore, Alberta.

While Yukon biathletes were winning medals, just down the road Yukon cross-country skiers were doing the same at the Alberta Cup in Canmore, Alberta.

At this weekend’s season opening event, the warm-up for the start of the NorAm series, Yukoners skied to a gold and two silvers.

Taking gold, in her first race of the season, was Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa, 22. She won the senior women’s 10-kilometre classic.

“I’m happy with my race. I still have a bit of work to do, to get back to top form, but I’m definitely on the right track,” said Nishikawa. “So I’m excited about next weekend.

“I had a slower start than I would have liked. But then I worked my way back up to the lead.”

Nishikawa moved up from sixth after the first of three laps out to a 14-second lead over the second-place finisher.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” she said. “It’s a smaller-scale race, next weekend (at the NorAm), all the Americans will be there as well. So there’ll be a lot more competition. But it was a good race and a good indicator.”

A little sick in the week leading up to the race, Yukon’s Knute Johnsgaard wasn’t even sure he was going to compete. But he’s glad he did.

Johnsgaard, who was skiing for the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre in Quebec, took silver in the junior men’s 10-kilometre race at the Cup.

“You never really know what to expect going into the season, so I was really pleased with my result,” said the 19-year-old. “It makes me motivated and excited to race the rest of the season.

“Next weekend are the first NorAms, which are a little more serious, more important races. So I’m pretty excited about those now that I have one race under my belt.”

Whitehorse’s Janelle Greer, a member of the junior national team skiing with the Alberta World Cup Academy, could not have been closer to capturing gold in Saturday’s sprint race. It took place on a 1.1-kilometre course with a lot of uphill to start followed by downhill to the finish line.

“In the final I chose the wrong thing to do. I led up and over the hill,” said Greer. “Maya (MacIsaac-Jones), the girl who won, was drafting off me on the downhill and was able to pass me. Coming into the finish we were right beside each other. It was a pretty tight finish.”

A matter of centimetres, Greer was edged into second.

Representing the Yukon in senior men were David Greer and John Parry.

Both skiers reached the semi-final of Saturday’s sprint with David in ninth and Parry in 10th. In the distance race the following day, David moved up to sixth while Parry took in another 10th place finish.

Nishikawa’s first gold of the season comes less than two weeks after being named Sport Yukon’s International Female Athlete of the Year.

Last season Nishikawa won three medals at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax. She took gold at the 2011 Haywood Ski Nationals in Canmore in March and she won a gold and bronze at the 2011 Eastern Canadian Championships. That qualified her for the 2011 Under-23 World Champions hips in Estonia where she finished 16th in the 10-kilometre free.

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