Now it’s waiting time.
The Yukon’s best chance of having an athlete on the Canadian Olympic team, Graham Nishikawa, 26, finished fifth in his final Olympic trial event, a 50-kilometre classic technique NorAm race Tuesday in Canmore, Alberta.
Having not won any of the four trial events, but still finishing among the top skiers, Nishikawa is still in contention for a spot on the team.
“I think they’re discussing things now, but I’m not sure what my situation will be,” said Nishikawa. “They’re in sessions now, but we don’t know what will happen.
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
The Whitehorse native finished the 50-kilometre event with a time of two hours, 23 minutes and 16.5 seconds, just over 2:02 behind the winner Brian McKeever from Foothills, Alberta.
“That was the most grueling thing I’ve done in a long time – I’m pretty tired right now,” said Nishikawa shortly after crossing the finish line. “I didn’t have a great day. I started pretty slow and was trying to comeback on the field, but I kind of ran out of juice a bit.”
Nishikawa finished the first of nine laps in 13th, but despite being short on “juice,” he still managed to complete the last two laps with the second-fastest times.
“It wasn’t exactly the result I was looking for, but it wasn’t terrible either,” said Nishikawa. “A lot of good guys finished way back. It was a long, grueling 50 kilometres.”
McKeever, 20, who is legally blind and a multiple gold-medal winner at the Paralympics, almost certainly secured a spot on the team and will no doubt be a story of high interest during the Vancouver Games.
This past Sunday at another Olympic trial event Nishikawa did reach the podium in a NorAm sprint race in Canmore, finishing third. The previous day in another sprint he was fifth.
“I’m more of a distance skier, but I was having two really good days,” said Nishikawa. “It was kind of a longer sprint, like four minutes, with two giant hills.
“There was a big fall in one of the finals – people were falling and anything can happen in those kind of races.”
Nishikawa’s sister, Emily Nishikawa, 20, made her return to competition after missing last season due to an injury, reaching the B finals on Saturday and taking ninth. On Sunday’s sprint she came in 17th overall.
Fellow Yukoner David Greer, who like Nishikawa is more of a long-distance skier, also had strong results in the sprint events, reaching the open males B final for a 10th-place spot overall on Saturday.
Competing in a 15-kilometre skate for the first Olympic trial event on December 12 in Sovereign Lakes, BC, Nishikawa came 10th overall and was the fourth Canadian over the finish line.
To start the season, Nishikawa competed in World Cup events in Norway, Finland, and the Scandinavian Cup in Sweden, producing his best European result, a 15th-place finish out of 142 world-class skiers in the 15-kilometre skate.
“I’m going to come home to Whitehorse and have Christmas at home,” said Nishikawa. “I’m going to take a couple weeks off and relax.”
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