Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa celebrates a past win. Nishikawa was the fastest Canadian, finishing 34th in qualifying for the classic technique sprint. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse skiers take to the course at Pyeongchang Olympics

‘It will be a moment I remember forever’

Cross-country skiing is underway at the 2018 Olympic Games and Whitehorse’s three skiers have all taken to the course for Team Canada.

In the first event of the games, Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla won gold in the women’s 15-km skiathlon on Feb. 10 with a time of 40 minutes and 44.9 seconds. Norwegian Marit Bjoergen won silver and Krista Parmakoski of Finland won bronze.

Yukoners Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty finished in 44th and 52nd respectively. Nishikawa previously skied the event in 2014 at the Sochi Olympics where she finished 41st.

Cendrine Browne was the top Canadian, finishing 33rd, and Anne-Marie Comeau placed 48th to round out Team Canada’s results.

Beatty said she had some first race jitters, but that she is hoping to be more relaxed in her upcoming races.

“Being in the finish area at the end of the skiathlon, my first Olympic race, and hugging my three teammates was a really special moment,” said Beatty. “It will be a moment I remember forever.”

The next day it was the men who took to the course for the 30-km skiathlon and Norway swept the podium.

Simen Hegstad Krueger won gold with a time of one hour, 16 minutes and 20 seconds. Teammates Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Hans Christer Holund finished second and third, less than 10 seconds behind Krueger.

Alex Harvey was the top Canadian in the race, finishing in eighth place. Devon Kershaw finished 36th, Graeme Killick finished 45th and Whitehorse’s Knute Johnsgaard finished 62nd.

In the classic technique sprint on Feb. 13, Len Valjas was the only Canadian man to qualify, making it to the semifinals. Harvey, Jesse Cockney and Russell Kennedy missed qualifying with finishes of 32nd, 35th and 54th respectively.

In the women’s sprint, none of the three Canadian athletes advanced to the heats. Nishikawa was the fastest Canadian, finishing 34th in qualifying. Beatty and Browne finished 42nd and 51st respectively.

Nishikawa said this was one of her best-ever sprint results.

“I have to be happy with that,” said Nishikawa. “I was so close to qualifying, so it would have been great to ski in the heats, but to come so close is a really great performance for me.”

Nishikawa said she is focused on the 10-km free race on Feb. 15.

Both Nishikawa and Beatty said they are looking forward to the relay on Feb. 17.

There was more news on international skiing this week as Cross Country Canada revealed their nominations to compete at the Paralympic Games in March.

Among the 14 athletes named to the team in the Feb. 12 press release was Whitehorse’s Graham Nishikawa, one of two guides for 13-time Paralympic medalist Brian McKeever.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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