Whitehorse skiers won four medals at the Haywood NorAm in Vernon, B.C., over the weekend.
Medalists Graham Nishikawa, Emily Nishikawa, Dahria Beatty and David Greer can now go into their biggest races so far this season brimming with confidence. Those four skiers will be the only Yukoners competing this week in the Alberta World Cup in Canmore.
“These World Cups are important races. They are coming to Canada, so we have home-course advantage,” said Graham. “It takes a couple weekends to race and get in shape to be your best, so I wasn’t really concerned with the results from the NorAm. But it’s always good to win. It gives confidence to know that everything’s good.”
The Nishikawa siblings couldn’t ask for a better result heading into the World Cup with first-place finishes on Sunday. Graham took gold in the open men’s 15-kilometre free while Emily captured gold in the open women’s 10-kilometre event.
“Saturday didn’t go that well for me,” said Emily, who took fifth in Saturday’s 10-kilometre classic. “I started too fast and kind of blew up.
“Sunday went much better. So I was happy to get a good race under my belt before the World Cup this coming week.”
“It was cool that Emily and I could win on the same day,” added Graham, who placed ninth in Saturday’s classic race. “That’s always nice.
“We’re in the same boat: we’re just looking forward to this weekend. Hopefully we can do even better.”
Beatty, who is a member of Canada’s junior national team, placed fourth in the women’s 10-kilometre on Saturday, winning silver as the second junior women over the finish line. The 18-year-old decided not to race on Sunday.
“I was happy with my race, I felt strong and consistent throughout the race, I just didn’t quite have that extra gear on Saturday to go with the leaders when they made their break three quarters of the way through the race,” said Beatty in an email to the News. “I am really excited about this coming week.
“It will be great to race against so many world-class ladies. I am just going to ski as fast as I can and take in everything I can from this amazing opportunity.”
Greer, who is a member of the new Yukon Elite Squad, landed a bronze on Sunday, coming in 40.5 seconds behind Graham. He also claimed sixth in the open men 15-kilometre classic on Saturday.
“Overall I’m happy with my races,” said Greer in an email to the News. “In Saturday’s mass start race I made a tactical mistake going into the last lap. There was an attack from the Swede who ended up winning and I didn’t respond as aggressively as I should have and got dropped from the lead pack … If I could have stayed on during that initial attack then I think things could have played out quite differently, but it’s still a good result and I’m happy enough with it.
“Sunday’s race was pretty good. I skied a smart, consistent race and ended up third. It’s always nice to be on the podium.”
All four of Greer’s Yukon Elite Squad teammates also competed in Vernon. The team’s only junior, Fabian Brook, placed 36th on Saturday (seventh for junior men) and 58th on Sunday (22nd for junior men).
For open men, John Parry took 24th on Saturday and ninth on Sunday; Colin Abbott 13th on Saturday and 29th on Sunday; Knute Johnsgaard 17th on Saturday and 15th on Sunday.
Whitehorse’s Lee Hawkings also raced in open men and snagged 21st on Saturday and 32nd on Sunday.
Graham and Emily, who are members of Canada’s Senior National Team, prequalified for this week’s World Cup with results from last season.
Beatty and Greer qualified during NorAm races the weekend before last. Greer qualified with a bronze-medal performance in the open men’s 15-kilometre. Beatty qualified with sixth- and eighth-place finishes, the latter being good enough for silver in the junior women division.
The Alberta World Cup this week and the Quebec World Cup last weekend, which did not include Yukon skiers, are the first held in Canada since 2010.
“All the international athletes are here, so it’s going to be a big race,” said Emily. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
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