Emily Nishikawa, Dahria Beatty and Knute Johnsgaard, seen here at the 2013 Yukon Cross-Country Ski Championships, were named to the Olympic cross-country skiing team. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)

Three Whitehorse skiers named to Olympic team

‘I’m racing at the Olympic Games! My mom will be there watching. It’s already a personal success’

The Canadian Olympic Committee announced the 11 athletes who will compete in cross-country skiing next month in Pyeongchang at the Olympic Winter Games and three hail from Whitehorse.

Knute Johnsgaard, Dahria Beatty and Emily Nishikawa were all named to the team, the COC announced in a press release Jan. 29.

The three skiers earned their places based on World Cup results over the last two years.

Johnsgaard was part of a bronze-medal-winning Canadian men’s relay team last season, meaning a trip to South Korea has been in the cards for a while.

“Excitement is starting to build. I always imagined qualifying for the Olympics would comes as a result of a stressful trials race and getting a phone call two weeks out from the Games,” said Johnsgaard. “Instead, I learned over a year ago now I’d be on the team. The initial excitement had oddly worn off, as the Games seemed so far away. Now, as they’re just around the corner and the full team has been named, it’s definitely becoming more real.”

Asked what would make the Games a success, Johnsgaard had a simple answer.

“I’m racing at the Olympic Games! My mom will be there watching. It’s already a personal success,” said Johnsgaard.

Nishikawa, a veteran of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, said being named to the team for the second time is an honour, and that her plan is to perform at her very best.

“If I have that type of performance I will be so happy,” said Nishikawa. “No matter where I end up on the results list, it will be a success in my eyes.”

Both Nishikawa and Johnsgaard said the support they receive from the community is special.

“We have so much support from our community and it is something I am very grateful for as I head to my second Olympics,” said Nishikawa.

Johnsgaard said he was “humbled” to be an Olympian and thankful for the support from home.

In the press release, Beatty said her selection has been a life-long goal.

“It is an absolute dream come true to be selected for my first Olympic Games,” she said. “It has been a goal of mine ever since I was a little kid racing. Now that it is finally a reality, I am excited to make the most of the Olympic atmosphere and race my heart out for Canada.”

Other skiers named to the team were Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, Lenny Valjas, Jesse Cockney, Graeme Killick, Cendrine Browne, Anne-Marie Comeau and Russell Kennedy.

Harvey, fresh off a silver medal at the latest World Cup event in Seefeld, Austria, said the makeup of the team is a balance of youth and experience.

“We are coming into these Games with a lot of confidence and momentum. We have a good mix of veterans and first time Olympians,” Harvey said in the press release. “Hopefully the girls and young guys can take it all in and learn from us.”

Canada has won three Olympic medals in cross-country skiing — a gold in 2002, and a gold and silver in 2006.

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 9-25.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopinshill@yukon-news.com

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