Whitehorse’s three cross-country skiers on the national team began the season in earnest on two circuits, on two continents, with one medal to show for it.
Emily Nishikawa took part in the first FIS World Cup races of the season in Ruka, Finland, while national senior development teammates Dahria Beatty and Knute Johnsgaard hit the U.S. SuperTour in West Yellowstone, Montana.
After qualifying in an unthreatening 25th place, Beatty hit high gear to capture bronze in the women’s skate sprint on Friday.
The 21-year-old has won SuperTour medals as a junior, but this was her first in open.
“I was happy with how I felt in the sprint race and it was great to be able to do well in such a competitive field,” said Beatty in an email to the News. “Lots of good practice to fine-tool things for this coming weekends NorAm races in Canmore, (Alta.).”
Beatty finished the event with 23rd out of 80 skiers in the 10-kilometre freestyle distance race on Saturday. That one she was less pleased with.
“That one didn’t go that well for me,” she said. “The races were at 2,100 meters, which is more than 300 meters higher than anything we normally race at. I just wasn’t able to get my body to the pace I needed to be at that day.
“However I am feeling in good shape and the sprint was a good indicator for me that I will be all ready for the (Haywood NorAm).”
Johnsgaard, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday Saturday, kicked off the season with two top-10 results on the SuperTour.
He placed first in the sprint qualifier and reached the final to take fourth. He then placed sixth in Saturday’s 15-kilometre men’s race out of 142 skiers with a time of 35:59.6 - just 34.5 seconds behind the winner.
“I’ve had a great start to the season,” said Johnsgaard in an email. “My training season was flawless, I put so much time and effort into logging 100 per cent quality training/resting all year long. I stayed healthy and am in the best shape of my life. I’m very confident and this past weekend’s results just give me more to stand behind.”
Nishikawa, 26, didn’t get the results she was hoping for, but she’s glad to be back in the thick of things on the International Ski Federation World Cup circuit.
“It was great to get the World Cup season started, and really fun to be racing again,” she said in an email. “It wasn’t exactly the results or performances I was hoping for, but it was a good start. These first World Cups of the season are so competitive, with really deep fields.”
Nishikawa, who is the only women skier representing Canada on the circuit, placed 58th in the sprint Friday, 65th in the five-kilometre free Saturday and 60th in the 10-kilometre pursuit Sunday.
With those results she placed 60th out of 78 skiers in the mini-tour event.
The Sochi Olympian will next race a World Cup in Norway this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to racing in Lillehammer this weekend and improving on my races from Ruka,” she said. “I will race the 15-kilometre skiathlon on Saturday, but since I’m the only Canadian women here I won’t be racing in the team relay on Sunday.”
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