Whitehorse to host 2010 skiing nationals

At last year’s national cross country skiing championships, the Whitehorse ski team produced a bevy of medals, resulting in a fourth place…

At last year’s national cross country skiing championships, the Whitehorse ski team produced a bevy of medals, resulting in a fourth place finish.

Looking ahead to 2010, the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club hopes to soon move into a podium spot with this week’s announcement by Cross Country Canada that the 2010 Haywood Ski Nationals will be held in Whitehorse.

“Nationals are usually in Canmore (Alberta) and down south,” said Graham Nishikawa, a member of the national team from Whitehorse, who is currently training at the National Training Centre outside of Quebec City.

“So it’s going to be pretty special to have them on the home-trails.”

“I grew up skiing these trails and that gives me a definite advantage,” said teammate David Greer, in a press release, who is also currently training in Quebec. “Being at home is more relaxing so it’s easier to recover between races.”

“I think so,” echoed Nishikawa, when asked if a home field — er, trail — setting might give him an advantage. “Just being at home and knowing the trails … hopefully it’ll give me an edge.”

Whitehorse has not hosted a national cross country meet in over two decades. The last was the junior nationals back in 1986, nine years after Whitehorse hosted the senior nations in 1977. However, in the last two years Whitehorse has been the scene of some major national winter events.

“We’ve built our experience in the last few years in the Western (Games) and the Canada Winter Games,” said Joan Stenton, chief of event.

“(For) the Canada Winter Games (hosted by Whitehorse in 2007) they made them harder,” said Nishikawa, speaking of the trails at Mt. McIntyre, where the races will be held. “They’re equivalent to racing on the hardest circuits around the world.”

The timing of the nationals, starting just a few weeks after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, may have given Whitehorse’s bid for the nationals a boost.

“I know that because of the Olympics  —  it’s the same year as the Olympics  —  that there weren’t bids from British Columbia,” said Stenton. “Those volunteers will be completely tapped out dealing with the Olympics.

“I don’t know if other western provinces bid on it or not,” she added.

The Whitehorse club is expecting about 400 athletes to participate in the nationals, accompanied by about 50 or more coaches and support staff.

About 200 volunteers will be needed for the eight-day event, which will be held in mid-March.

“For a whole range of jobs,” said Stanton, speaking of the volunteer positions.

“Technical officials, and that kind of thing, to providing athlete services and spectator services — all of the things that go along with an event like this.”

Last year’s nationals took place at the Whistler Olympic Park, at the Callaghan Valley Cross Country Ski Club in BC. The 2009 nationals will take place in Duntroon near Collingwood, Ontario. The locations of the nationals alternate between east and west each year.

The name of the nationals comes from its chief sponsor, Haywood Securities Ltd., an investment firm.

“The national championships for skiing is the biggest series of races every year in Canada, said Nishikawa. “And it’s getting bigger and bigger,”

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