Four members of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club will be taking on the world in less than two weeks.
Graham Nishikawa, Emily Nishikawa, David Greer and Dahria Beatty have qualified for the Alberta World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, Dec. 13-16.
Greer and Beatty qualified with strong performances at the Haywood NorAm in Canmore this past weekend. The Nishikawa siblings, both of whom are on Canada’s Senior Developmental Team, prequalified for the Alberta World Cup with their results from last season.
Beatty’s qualification for the World Cup is a huge accomplishment. At 18, Beatty is a junior level skier and still managed to place sixth overall in the 1.3-kilometre sprint in the senior women’s division on Saturday.
“I was really excited when I realized that I had qualified,” said Beatty in an email to the News. “Going into the races I was hoping to qualify for the distances races, so qualifying for both the sprint and distance was an amazing feeling.
“Sprinting isn’t usually my strength but I have been working on it and I felt good on Saturday so I just went for it.”
Beatty’s sixth-place finish is even more impressive when you take into account the top three spots were filled by members of the Swiss national sprint team. She also went on to win silver in the junior women 10-kilometre classic (eighth overall) on Sunday.
“Saturday’s race was my best open women’s sprint result ever,” added Beatty.
Greer’s presence in the upcoming Alberta World Cup means that the Yukon Elite Squad, founded in April, will already be represented on the world stage.
Greer qualified for the Cup by placing third in open men’s 15-kilometre, four spots up from Graham Nishikawa in seventh.
“It was a great race for me,” said Greer. “I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in because with what we’ve been doing with the Yukon Elite Squad in Whitehorse, we’ve been isolated a bit.
“It went pretty well. For the first race of the season, I’m pretty happy with that.”
Greer also placed 18th in Saturday’s sprint event and was 16th for Canadians.
“The Swiss sprint national race team was there in preparation for the World Cups here in Canada,” said Greer. “They had some good skiers.”
Emily, who is starting her first season in the open women division, placed fourth in Sunday’s 10-kilometre classic.
“It’s a good start (to the season). To be among the top girls is always good,” said Emily. “But it definitely wasn’t my best performance today. My fitness is still kind of coming along. I’m not in top shape just yet, which is normal for the start of the season.
“I’m getting into shape right now, so in a couple weeks I should be back to top form.”
Emily, who was named International Female Athlete of the Year at the Sports Yukon Awards Night last week, also finished 11th overall in Saturday’s sprint event after qualifying in fifth.
“It wasn’t my best day, by far,” said Emily. “I’ve been stronger in distance races the last couple of years.
“I’m pretty happy with my fifth-place qualification. The Swiss sprint national team was here for these races so it was quite a bit more competitive.”
All five of the new Yukon Elite Squad competed in Canmore.
Knute Johnsgaard placed 13th in the distance race and 21st in the sprint; John Parry came 14th in the distance and 45th in the sprint; Colin Abbott skied to 25th in the distance race and 27th in the sprint.
Fabian Brook, the only junior skier on the Y.E.S. team, placed sixth in the junior men’s 15-kilometre classic on Sunday and 16th in the junior sprint on Sunday.
Whitehorse’s Lee Hawkings, who was skiing for Carleton University’s Nordic Ski Ravens, placed 36th in the 15-kilometre event and 47th in the sprint.
The four Whitehorse skiers who qualified for the Alberta World Cup will compete at a NorAm in Sovereign Lakes, B.C., this weekend. All four also qualified from the Quebec World Cup this weekend, a sprint championship, but decided to forgo the Quebec competition to focus on the one in Canmore.
“The plan is not to be peaking quite yet because it’s the first race of the season,” said Greer. “If I were to be peaking right now, the season half of the season would be pretty tough.
“It’s a good start to the season. I wasn’t expecting to do that well. It is still a long season and we have important races all the way through to mid-March.”
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