The Yukon recently came within 0.4 seconds of being represented at the next Nordic World Ski Championships.
Whitehorse’s Graham Nishikawa missed by a hair after battling Canadian Olympian George Grey for 30-kilometres in a pursuit race last week at a Haywood NorAm trials event, which ended Sunday in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
In a dramatic sprint finish, Nishikawa missed the gold and an automatic berth on the Canadian senior team for the world championships next month in Oslo, Norway, by less than a half second.
“It was a great race – George was at the Olympics in that same race,” said Nishikawa. “George and I were battling for 30-kilometres and to lose by that much is kind of heartbreaking. Still, I have to be proud of how I skied.”
Nishikawa also won silver on Sunday in a 15-kilometre skate race, this time finishing just five seconds behind Grey. In between the two distance events, the 27-year-old came fourth in a sprint race.
“The sprint was an average day for me – not great, not bad,” said Nishikawa. “The 15-kilometre, I was second after George, but it was a great race too.
“He was ninth last year at the Olympics. He’s a great skier, so it shows I’m improving and stepping up.”
However, some other Yukoners will reach the world stage because of strong results in Thunder Bay.
Snagging medals and national team spots – junior team spots – were Emily Nishikawa and Janelle Greer, who will head to Estonia for the Junior and U23 World Championships at the end of the month.
“I’m feeling great; I think my fitness is coming along nice,” said Emily Nishikawa. “I think I’ll be in great shape for the world championships.”
“I’m excited for them,” said Greer. “I always find it easier – I don’t get nervous, I just get excited. There are no big expectations; you don’t have to be top three to make anything. You’re already there and you just go as hard as you can.”
Competing in the U-23 women’s division in Thunder Bay, Nishikawa snatched gold in the 10-kilometre pursuit, second in the sprint and fourth in the 10-kilometre skate.
“I’m thrilled with how it was this weekend – I had a really good day in the pursuit,” said Nishikawa. “I’m pretty excited to go Estonia and represent Canada.
“I’m super excited. I’m really looking forward to improving on my results from last year.”
Greer, 18, who was in the junior women division (U-20), came fifth in the pursuit, second in the sprint and fourth in the distance skate race.
“I’m actually really happy with how I did in the skate race because I’m a lot stronger at classic (technique) than skating,” said Greer. “I was pretty nervous of how I would do in the skate race and I knew if I wanted to go (to the worlds) I would have to be top four or five.
“Coming into the stadium, there were two big up-hills in the last kilometre-and-a-half and they were really hard.”
Also taking in hardware in Thunder Bay, but narrowly missing selection to the junior team, was Whitehorse’s David Greer, winning silver in Sunday’s 15-kilometre skate race in the U-23 division.
“As the races went on, I got more into it,” said David Greer. “I was in Whitehorse for Christmas and I didn’t get a whole lot of races under my belt, so it woke up my body, to get it back in race shape.
“I think if I raced like I did in the last race, in the first two races, I’d be on the team.”
Other top results for Yukoners in Thunder Bay include a fourth place finish from Knute Johnsgaard and a fifth place result from Dahria Beatty. Yukoners Colin Abbott, Jeff Wood, Kendra Murray and Heidi Brook all posted top-20 results.
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