Whitehorse skiers collect first NorAm medals of the season

The first Haywood NorAm races of the season almost didn’t take place. They were almost cancelled due to cold weather. By midday temperatures rose just above the minus-20 cutoff.

The first Haywood NorAm races of the season almost didn’t take place.

They were almost cancelled due to cold weather. By midday temperatures rose just above the minus-20 cutoff, “But that was in the sun and without wind chill,” said Yukon’s Knute Johnsgaard. “Lots of people got frostbite. Perhaps we had a bit of an advantage coming from Whitehorse.”

Yukon’s hardy skiers prospered in the chill, winning three medals in the NorAm at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre in Vernon, B.C., over the weekend.

Junior Dahria Beatty sprinted to gold and siblings Graham and Emily Nishikawa each collected a bronze.

“Both days we woke up and weren’t sure if the races were going to go or not,” said Beatty. “But the races went ahead and the Yukon had a really strong showing.”

Beatty won gold in the junior women 1.2-kilometre sprint on Sunday, marking Yukon’s first gold medal of the NorAm season. She also placed fourth in the junior women’s 10-kilometre free – 12th overall for open women – on Saturday.

“I was really happy with today, my qualifier was good and in all three heats I was feeling really strong and won my quarterfinal, semifinal and final,” said the 19-year-old. “It felt good to have such a strong race at the start of the season.

“Saturday’s race felt all right. I felt like I was missing that top speed that I should have been going at. So I was hoping for a little bit better result on Saturday, but all in all I was happy with the weekend.”

Beatty also captured gold in a 10-kilometre classic the previous weekend at the Alberta Cup in Canmore. Her goal for the season is to qualify for the FIS Nordic Junior World Championships at the end of January. There is one qualification spot available for the junior worlds in the two December NorAms, otherwise Beatty will have to qualify in the main trials next month in Canmore. This season is Beatty’s last as a junior.

“My main goal is to qualify for the Junior World Championships, which are in Val di Fiemme, Italy,” said Beatty, who is on Canada’s junior national team. “I’m racing again next weekend at the NorAm in

Rossland, so I’m hoping to have a strong showing there as well to qualify.”

Graham Nishikawa won bronze in the open men’s 15-kilometre free on Saturday, finishing as the top Canadian. He was just 4.5 seconds behind the winner in the individual start race.

Graham went on to take eighth in the senior men’s 1.4-kilometre spring on Sunday.

“Distance is my focus and that was the race I was keying in on this weekend,” said Graham. “It was a good start (to the season). Obviously, being just four seconds (behind the winner), it was super tight.

Just one or two changes can get (me) back to the top.”

Sister Emily won her bronze in the senior women’s 1.2-kilometre sprint on Sunday after taking fifth in the open women’s 10-kilometre free on Saturday.

“I’m definitely happy,” said Emily. “I feel like my form is coming along and is getting better with each race. That’s a great sign for next weekend and for (Olympic) trials after Christmas. So I’m very happy with how the weekend went.”

Emily claimed gold in the senior women’s 11.25-kilometre classic race at the Alberta Cup the previous weekend. She has now had success in both a distance and a sprint race in the young ski season.

“I’m happy to be racing – this is the fun part,” said Emily. “I’m excited for the races to come.”

Yukon was narrowly edged out of a fourth medal over the weekend. Johnsgaard placed fourth in the senior men’s 1.4-kilometre sprint on Sunday for his strongest NorAm sprint result of his career.

He also came ninth in the open men’s 15-kilometre free on Saturday.

“They were two solid races for me,” said Johnsgaard. “There was some good competition with a few fast Americans coming up, so to crack the top ten was good. I skied very efficiently and kept a steady pace for every lap on the skate, not worrying about the few guys that overtook me. I think a lot of people started fast or tried to hang on to stronger skiers and then paid for it on the last lap.”

Johnsgaard’s Yukon Elite Squad teammate, Colin Abbott, did not start on Saturday due to illness, but skied to 12th in the senior men’s 1.4-kilometre sprint on Sunday.

“He had a bit of a cold the week leading up to the races so he chose to save himself for the sprints,” said Johnsgaard. “It was very cold for both race days, which is particularly hard on your lungs. So him being sick, it was probably a good call.”

All five Yukon skiers will compete at the second set of NorAm races this weekend in Rossland, B.C.

The Olympic Games and World Junior/U23 Championships trials will take place Jan. 8-12 in Canmore.

The Nishikawas, who competed at the world championships last season, are hoping to qualify for their first Olympic Games next month.

“Things are good,” said Graham. “The plan is to be skiing really fast in four weeks from now … It doesn’t really matter how I’m doing right now, as long as I’m feeling good and getting better each weekend.

I’ll look for another good race in Rossland next Sunday.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read