As siblings, Janelle and David Greer have a lot in common. However, after competing in a NorAm meet this week in Canmore, Alberta, there’s more to add to the list.
With a handful of strong finishes the two have qualified for the Cross Country World Juniors being held January 31 to February 6 in Praz-de-Lys, France.
Although it has not yet been confirmed by team officials, Yukon team coach Alain Masson believes this is the first time since 1979 that Yukon has two skiers going to the Junior Worlds on the national team.
“It’s been a long, long time,” said Masson. “Otherwise, we’ve only had a handful of athletes qualifying in the last 30 years, maybe three or four in total.
“It doesn’t happen very often and to have two is fantastic. And they’re siblings — that’s definitely a first.”
Janelle sealed the deal with her first two races, finishing fourth Sunday in the 10-kilometre pursuit followed by a bronze performance in the junior women’s 10-kilometre skate.
After falling to dead last at the start of a sprint race Tuesday, Janelle took fourth to add to her list of accomplishments.
“I really didn’t think I was going to do that good actually,” said Greer of the sprint race. “As soon as you start the heat, you really don’t think about anything other than just getting ahead of people.
“My skis were really fast so I gained some speed down that. Then the next uphill had a really sharp turn and I was on the inside so I cut out a few people. Then there was another hairpin turn that I got to go on the inside so I had more of an advantage.”
David, who didn’t race in any of the sprints Tuesday, earned his ticket to the Worlds by grabbing the top spot in the junior men’s 15-kilometre free technique Sunday followed by a silver finish in a 20-kilometre race the next day.
The Greers’ accomplishments come on the heels of another Yukon success story. Teammate Graham Nishikawa earned a spot at the World Cup next week in Whistler, BC, after winning gold in the open men’s 30-kilometre pursuit Monday and a silver Sunday in the 15-kilometre skate.
“It’s the race I’ve been focusing on all year and it went pretty well for me,” said Nishikawa of Monday’s race. “I stayed relaxed and managed to win the sprint finish — I had a big finishing kick.”
Other notable Yukon performances include a 12th-place finish in the junior men’s 20-kilometre pursuit for Colin Abbot and a fifth-place finish by Lee Hawkings in a junior men’s sprint Tuesday.
“It’s his best result ever,” said Masson, of Hawkings’ finish. “That was an amazing surprise for Lee because he’s never cracked the top 15 before.”
Racing in a junior women’s sprint Tuesday, Emily Nishikawa, who has missed most of the season because of an injury, dropped out of the semifinals after taking a fall while leading the pack.
“That was a big disappointment,” said Masson. “The only race she could do was this sprint in classic (technique).”
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