Whitehorse’s David Greer and Knute Johnsgaard, two cross-country skiers appointed to Yukon’s Canada Winter Games team on Friday, wasted no time in showing why they will be ones to watch next month in Halifax.
As members of the National Training Centre in Quebec, the two Yukoners traveled with other Canadian skiers to a Super Tour - the American equivalent to Canada Cup and NorAm events - in Lake Placid, New York, on the weekend, securing podium spots for their age groups.
In the opening day’s 10-kilometre classic race on Friday, which featured a two-kilometre course strangely made up from a kilometre of uphill followed by a kilometre of downhill, Greer grabbed 10th overall in open men and third for U-23 while Johnsgaard was 29th overall and third in (the American equivalent to) junior men.
“You don’t see too many courses like this one, but it was kind of fun to have something different, even if it’s not a super good course for me,” wrote Greer in an e-mail to the News. “I had an OK race, I paced myself well but felt a little more tired than normal throughout the race. I finished 10th (in) open men, and third (in) U-23, which isn’t too bad.”
The following day’s 15-kilometre skate race, which took place on a very flat and “easy” course, resulted in similar finishes for the two in their age categories. Johnsgaard, though 53rd overall, took third for juniors and Greer was 14th overall and second in U-23.
“The night before it snowed quite a bit making the snow conditions really soft, and let’s just say that having 400 other racers going around the same loop again and again didn’t make it any firmer,” wrote Greer. “I felt like I paced myself well, but I didn’t feel like I had much energy. Maybe all the racing from last week was catching up to me.”
Greer is one of seven returners to Yukon’s team for next month’s Games, winning a gold in a 10-kilometre race in 2007. Also making their second appearance are Emily Nishikawa, Janelle Greer, Heidi Brook, Colin Abbot, John Parry, and Ray Sabo.
Joining Johnsgaard for a first-time around at the Canada Winter Games are Dahria Beatty and Kendra Murray.
“Usually most people don’t participate twice in the Canada Winter Games,” said Team Yukon cross-country ski head coach Alain Masson. “I think it’s a very competitive team, a very experienced team, so I look forward to these Games. I think it will be exciting to compete in Halifax.”
Alternates for the team are Katie Peters, Holly Bull, Jeff Wood and Lee Hawkings.
“Because three of the four races are distance races, we usually focus on athletes who can do well at distance race,” added Masson. “There’s only one sprint race out of the four. There’s not too many sprint specialists at that level, unlike at the World Cup where people will specialize.”
For the first time, Team Yukon will be sending a contingent of disabled athletes to the Games. John Paul Austring and Ramesh Ferris will be competing in two races in sit-ski. For Ferris, who famously rode his hand-bike from coast to coast across Canada in 2008 to raise money to fight polio, the Games aren’t just about representing the territory, but also are a reminder of the importance of inclusion.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to represent the Yukon with John Paul and the rest of the cross-country teammates,” said Ferris. “In particular, I think it’s important that Yukoners are aware that there’s an important need to provide sports and recreation opportunities for people of all abilities. Before I had the opportunity to sit-ski, because of Cross Country Yukon, I had not been able to participate in a winter sport ever. So this is much more than representing Yukon, it’s a liberating experience for me to develop my skills in a winter sport.”
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