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Whitehorse skier makes Canadian history

Sonjaa Schmidt takes gold in the U23 Worlds
Sonjaa Schmidt crosses the finish line in Planica, Slovenia. (Nordiq Canada/Graeme Williams)

Yukoner Sonjaa Schmidt has made Canadian skiing history.

On Feb. 6, she claimed gold in the sprint final of the U23 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, winning Canada’s first women’s U23 title, Nordic Canada stated in a media release on its website.

“In a surprise upset, the 21-year-old skier from Whitehorse, Yukon came from the back of the pack in the final heat to secure the top spot on the podium,” the release states.

After qualifying in 29th place, Schmidt advanced to the quarters and semifinal heats to secure a spot in the finals.

“With six athletes fighting for the top three spots, Schmidt made her move in the final straight, taking the outside line in a free skate to blow by the leaders in the final 120 meters, crossing the line with a triumphant fist in the air,” it was noted. “The historic victory is the first gold medal for Canada in a U23 Nordic World Ski Championship women’s event.”

Schmidt said in the statement that her main goal was to qualify for the heats.

“Once I got into the heats, I was just focused on staying calm and relaxed and race my hardest,” she said.

Schmidt made her World Cup debut in January with races in Oberhof, Germany and Goms, Switzerland, before heading into the U23 World Championships in Slovenia. Following the championship races, Schmidt is scheduled to compete in the FIS World Cup races in Minneapolis, U.S.

“It was such an amazing day, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” she said. “It was also so great to see all my teammates do so well. I think today was a huge step for Canadian cross country skiing, and I hope that this result inspires the next generation of skiers.”

Nordic Canada’s Next Gen Coach Eric De Nys noted the team’s goal had been to see an athlete qualify for the semifinals.

“It was unbelievable. We had athletes and staff gathered near the finish, and when she crossed the line, it was pure joy. We couldn’t have been prouder to be Canadian,” he said.

The young Canadian team of cross-country skiers will continue their push for medals at the championship event in the 10-kilometre interval start and 20-kilometre mass start events. The championship continues until Feb. 9.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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