Whitehorse skier surprised by success at worlds

Whitehorse's Lois Johnston finished no race empty-handed at the Masters World Cup last week in Asiago, Italy. Johnston won four medals in four races in the W7 division (females age 60-65) at the championship.

Whitehorse’s Lois Johnston finished no race empty-handed at the Masters World Cup last week in Asiago, Italy.

Johnston won four medals in four races in the W7 division (females age 60-65) at the championship.

Her reaction to returning home with four medals: “Complete surprise,” she said.

“Everything lined up and I didn’t have any problems with the time change … I had a couple days to acclimatize and I was pretty healthy, so I could adapt quite well.”

Johnston, who is a ski coach with Cross-Country Yukon, won two gold, a silver and a bronze.

Her first gold at the World Cup, in the 10-kilometre classic on Feb. 18, was perhaps the most surprising.

It was surreal for Johnston to hear the race announcer refer to her as a world champion as she approached the finish line.

“When you are racing, you’re so focused, you see no one, you hear no one,” said Johnston. “You’re just totally focused. That’s the beauty of cross-country skiing or any sport you’re really involved in.

“Coming over the line and hearing that, it was like, ‘Is that me?’ But I had to keep going because there was someone right on my heels. I couldn’t revel too long.”

Johnston finished in 35 minutes and 20.2 seconds, four seconds up from Russia’s Vera Koroleva and 11 seconds up from U.S.‘s Ginny Price.

While in third place, Johnston decided to go for the win on an uphill section of the course. It was a leap of faith.

“I put myself out there and led,” said Johnston. “I followed a couple people very closely and said to myself, ‘You can do this.’ So I stepped out and took off. It’s hard to get to that point where you’re brave enough to do that – to be the leader, the one leading the pack.

“I’m happy I realized I could do that.”

Johnston’s other gold came in the relay race on Feb. 20. The gold was a long time in the making.

“A year ago we thought we would try to qualify – you have to qualify for the relay – and that would be our goal,” said Johnston. “So that was a special thing for us to all qualify in our disciplines and then win it.

“I certainly give a lot of credit to my teammates, who live and train in Canmore, (Alta.). I was very lucky to be asked by them to join the team.”

Johnston opened the World Cup winning bronze in the 15-kilometre skate on Feb. 16. Johnston finished with a time of 48:39.0, 16.34 seconds behind first place.

She then captured silver in the 30-kilometre classic on Feb.22 with a time of 1:54:37.9, 47.9 seconds behind the gold medal winner.

“I just felt really great in the races, and that doesn’t always happen, but it happened there,” said Johnston. “Every time I had a race, I enjoyed that, and then I moved on and thought, there’s more work to do. I had a good mindset the whole week I was there.”

“I hope this will inspire young and old alike,” she added.

Johnston won four medals at the Canadian Masters National Cross-Country Ski Championships in Golden, B.C., a year ago.

After a two-decade absence, Johnston returned to competitive skiing in 2011 at the Sparkling Hill Masters World Cup 2011 in B.C. At the worlds, she placed fourth in the 30-kilometre and seventh in the 10-kilometre free.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com