HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
The Yukon was edged off of the podium in consecutive cross-country ski races at the Canada Winter Games on Saturday.
In the final ski events for the Games, Yukon’s men’s and women’s relay teams were outpaced by the competition - Alberta, Quebec and BC in both cases - to finish fourth at Ski Martock in Windsor, Nova Scotia.
“We’re super happy. The girls all skied well,” said Yukon’s Emily Nishikawa, who skied the last leg in the women’s 4x3.75-kilometre. “I had a good race, but the other teams all did really well too, so it wasn’t enough to get on the podium. But I think we should all be proud of how we skied.”
Had Yukon’s female relay team, which also included Kendra Murray, Janelle Greer and Dahria Beatty, been 38 seconds faster, it might have meant a fourth medal for Nishikawa, who won a gold, bronze and silver in the individual events last week.
“It was a great week. I think we had some really great results as a team and I had tons of fun - the Canada Games is always a good time,” said the three-time participant. “It was a good week for everyone; I think we’re all pretty happy.”
Nishikawa and Greer, who both train out of the Alberta World Cup Academy, were on a bronze winning relay team at the 2007 Games in Whitehorse, one of three medals won in cross-country during those Games.
“We were all hoping for a medal, but it just didn’t happen,” said Beatty. “I’m still happy with fourth.
“I was a little sick the last two races. So I felt, if I was a little bit healthier, I could have done a little bit better for the team. I finished my leg in third, so I’m happy how it went considering I was sick.
“Three of the four of us get to go to the next Games.”
Like Yukon’s women skiers, the men’s relay team - David Greer, John Parry, Colin Abbott and Ray Sabo - was beset by illness during their 4x5-kilometre relay.
“We were hoping to get a medal, but four out of five guys on our team are sick,” said David, the only Yukoner to win a gold in 2007. “It wasn’t a really good week for any of the men skiers. If we were healthy, we definitely would have been in there for the medals.”
Looking at Team Yukon’s results as a whole, one would think they were all as healthy as a horse.
In the individual events, out of 29 starts, Team Yukon’s 10 able bodied skiers captured 17 top-20 finishes and eight top-10s. In fact, in those races only one resulted in a finish outside of the top half of the field.
The only other Yukon skier than Nishikawa to finish every race in the top-10 was Beatty with her best result in Thursday’s 10-kilometre classic, taking seventh after two eighth-place finishes, despite the onset of illness.
“It seems to be, at the moment, I’m a better classic skier,” said Beatty. “I think I could have done a little bit better if I would have been healthy that race.”
Janelle Greer, after finishing in 12th the first two races, cut that in half to take sixth on Thursday.
Murray started the Games with her best result, coming 18th in the 7.5-kilometre free event while teammate Heidi Brook, who was on the bronze-winning relay team in 2007, produced her best result in Tuesday’s sprint with 19th.
On the men’s side, Abbott let his placement slip a little each race, starting with a 15th result in the opening race, then finishing 16th in the sprint before finishing with a 25th on Thursday.
Parry, showing some consistency, placed 14th in two events and started the week with a 16th place result.
Coming home with the weakest results on the team, Yukon’s Knute Johnsgaard placed out of the top half of the field in the sprint event, but still took 22nd and 25th in the distance races.
Sabo, after missing the opening race, held up in Chicago with a snowstorm, finished the Games with an 11th-place finish on Thursday for his best.
Yukon’s sit-skiers, the first para-athletes to represent the territory at the Canada Games, both cracked into mid-pack despite facing a field including Paralympians from the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Yukon’s John Austring had his best finish in the five-kilometre sit-ski on Thursday taking sixth in a field of 11. Teammate Ramesh Ferris, who famously rode his hand-bike across Canada to raise money to fight polio, came seventh in the 2.5-kilometre event to start the Games.
“I had a great time at the Canada Games. It was a cool opportunity to jump in on,” said Austring, who is also a paracyclist that has competed internationally. “The competition was good and I really out did my expectations. I didn’t know much about sit-skiing; I only started a couple months ago at Mt. McIntyre. To be honest, I didn’t find it overly exciting up at Mt. McIntyre, but when I got here, with a different course and all the competition, it was really exciting.”
With Nishikawa’s three medals, Team Yukon finished with five in total, outdoing Newfoundland and Labrador, which also scored five - but with four bronze and a silver - and NWT and Nunavut, both of which failed to collect hardware.
“I was happy to be at the top of the podium,” said Nishikawa of her gold. “I was super strong that day, so I’m super happy with that race.”
The five medals represent the best finish at the Winter Games since the 1995 Games in Grande Prairie, Alberta. The Yukon’s strongest
performance, medal wise, was at the 1991 Games in PEI, winning 17 medals including four gold.
Yukon’s first medals, two golds won in week one, came in target shooting. Pelly Crossing’s Danielle Marcotte won a gold in the women’s individual air pistol, breaking three Canada Games records with her scores. A couple days earlier, Marcotte and her younger sister Kyley, won gold in the women’s team air pistol event.
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