Finishing within two minutes of the greatest cross-country skiers on the planet in a 15-kilometre race might have been good enough for a career best, but was not enough to even get in the top-half of the field.
Racing in his first World Cup event of the season over the weekend in Beitostolen, Norway, Yukon’s Graham Nishikawa, 25, finished 66th in a field of 100 in the 15-kilometre free technique event Saturday, gliding in with a time of 36 minutes, 46 seconds.
“I did not ski well at all, so with some improvements I can be much closer to the lead,” wrote Nishikawa in and e-mail to theNews. “It was very tough conditions on the race course with some incredibly icy corners making it tough to ski relaxed.”
The following day Nishikawa was the anchor in the 4×10 kilometre relay for Team Canada taking 10th. At the end of the race, Nishikawa was involved in such a tight five-man sprint to the finish line, judges had to resort to using photo evidence to determine the winner.
“It is not everyday that I get to anchor a World Cup relay, so it was a pretty amazing experience,” wrote Nishikawa. “I started with the three fastest skaters in the world and it was full speed right from the line. I faded in the middle of the race, but then found myself in pack of five guys heading setting up for a sprint to the line. On the last hill I made a pretty sweet move going from the back of the pack to the front and managed to out sprint the whole group except for one.”
As it turned out, Norwegians won both events, even taking seven of the top-10 spots in Saturday’s race, but that had less to do with skiing on home turf than the prominence of the sport in the country, wrote Nishikawa.
“Cross-country skiing in Norway is huge,” he wrote. “All the Norwegians want to win at home so they really focus for these races.”
The previous weekend at the Scandinavian Cup in Bruksvallarna, Sweden, Nishikawa finished 15th out of a field of 142 skiers in the 15-kilometre skate. In the race he was the third Canadian over the finish line, coming in just one second behind Quebec’s Alex Harvey.
This weekend, Nishikawa will be in Finland for another World Cup event, putting his skills to use in a sprint on Saturday and a 15-kilometre classic on Sunday.
“I am feeling very good and looking forward to this weekend,” he added.
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