Whitehorse’s Nishikawa siblings have won the keys to our hearts, and now they will soon have the key to the city.
Cross-country skiers Graham and Emily Nishikawa will receive the key to the city, it was decided in city council on Tuesday.
“That’s an incredible honour and I’m totally speechless,” said Graham, soon after hearing the news. “Emily and I had a great year. She went to the Olympics and I was at the Paralympics, helping Brian McKeever, and it was all such a whirlwind year and season.”
“I was super honoured,” said Emily. “I just heard about it today, so I didn’t have too much information on it, but it’s a huge honour …
“We’re so proud to be from such a great city.”
The Nishikawas, who were born in Whitehorse, will be the first recipients in Whitehorse history. City council had only created the city program a little over a week before Tuesday’s decision.
The motion to award the Nishikawas was tabled by deputy mayor Mike Gladish.
“The underline current he was thinking was that the Nishikawas have done so much to recognize what a great community and territory we live in that has received international exposure in a positive light, and they are real role models,” said Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis. “We felt nothing we had in the city would be adequate to tell them and showcase how much pride our community feels towards their accomplishments.
“The keys to the city seemed like the most significant thing we could do … We felt anyone who does something so extraordinarily significant should be recognized.”
The Nishikawas have been doing Yukon proud for many years, but this past season was extra special.
Emily was the first Yukon skier to compete at the Olympics since 1992 when she represented Canada in Sochi earlier this year. She led the Canadian team in two races in Sochi, topping out with a 42nd place finish in the 15-kilometre skiathlon.
Graham wore Canada red and white as a guide for visually impaired skier Brian McKeever at the Paralypic Games in Sochi, helping McKeever win three gold medals. Graham was McKeever’s primary guide in the sprint and was back up for McKeever’s other two races.
“We’re over the moon proud of them,” said Curtis. “We’re just ecstatic they had this success and continue to enjoy the success. They are fantastic ambassadors to Canada and Yukon and in particular for Whitehorse.”
The two national developmental team members, who also competed at the world championships last year, capped the season with great performances at the Haywood Ski Nationals – the Canadian championships – in Corner Brook, NL.
Emily won two gold and a silver and placed second in aggregate open women.
Graham won a gold, silver and bronze and placed second in the aggregate standings for open men.
Those results helped the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club place second out of 59 clubs in the club aggregate standings. With the help of the Nishikawas the Whitehorse club also set a high water mark in hardware with 19 medals.
“It was an incredible nationals for the whole Whitehorse club,” said Emily. “To come away with a record amount of medals is really cool and to see so many of the up-and-comers doing so well is so inspiring.
“I had a pretty good week myself.”
At the nationals Graham showed even jetlag can’t slow him down much.
“I got off the plane at two in the morning and raced the following day at one in the afternoon, had a bunch of coffee, had no expectation, and ended up with a silver medal,” said Graham. “I was pretty happy with that. Two days later I ended up winning the sprint race and a national championship – I couldn’t really believe I did that.”
The Nishikawas will receive the key to the city in a ceremony tentatively planned for May 5 at Whitehorse’s city council chambers.
“Thank you to the city for awarding us with this, and thanks to everyone for making this season so special for both Graham and I,” said Emily.
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