Even though only 0.001 per cent of Canadians live in the Yukon, Whitehorse skiers will make up 10 per cent of Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior and U23 Championships in Otepaa, Estonia January 25-31.
Cross-country skiers Emily Nishikawa and Janelle Greer will be joining 18 other Canadians on the team, further cementing the territory as a powerhouse in the sport.
“I’m feeling great; I think my fitness is coming along nice,” said Nishikawa, who is just getting over a shoulder injury. “I think I’ll be in great shape for the world championships.”
“I’m excited for them,” said Greer. “I always find it easier – I don’t get nervous, I just get excited. There are no big expectations; you don’t have to be top three to make anything. You’re already there and you just go as hard as you can.”
The two skiers qualified for the junior worlds at the Haywood NorAm World Junior/U23 Trials held in Thunder Bay last week, competing with 12 other Yukoners at the event.
Skiing in the U-23 women’s division, Nishikawa snatched gold in the 10-kilometre pursuit, silver in the sprint and fourth in the 10-kilometre skate.
“I’m thrilled with how it was this weekend – I had a really good day in the pursuit,” said Nishikawa. “I’m pretty excited to go to Estonia and represent Canada.
“I’m super excited. I’m really looking forward to improving on my results from last year.”
Greer, 18, who was in the junior women division (U-20), came fifth in the pursuit, second in the sprint and fourth in the distance skate race.
“I’m actually really happy with how I did in the skate race because I’m a lot stronger at classic (technique) than skating,” said Greer. “I was pretty nervous of how I would do in the skate race and I knew if I wanted to go (to the worlds) I would have to be top four or five.
“Coming into the stadium, there were two big up-hills in the last kilometre-and-a-half and they were really hard.”
Both skiers already have some international experience under their belts with Nishikawa competed at the junior worlds last year, taking 23rd in the sprint, and Greer the year before, taking 34th in the sprint and 37th in the pursuit.
Other top results for Yukoners in Thunder Bay include two silver medals from Graham Nishikawa in senior men’s events, a silver for David Greer in senior men’s, a fourth place finish from Knute Johnsgaard and a fifth from Dahria Beatty in the junior divisions. The results from Thunder Bay will be used to determine Team Yukon’s skiers for the Canada Winter Games next month in February.
At the age of 21, Emily Nishikawa skill qualifies for the Halifax Games, and although Team Yukon’s cross-country skiing selections for the Games will be released later this week, it is all but a certainty she will be on the team.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org