A gold medal for Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa at the 2011 Haywood Ski Nationals in Canmore, Alberta, on Sunday, holds special significance for the 21-year-old.
Not only did it make her a senior national champion for the first time, it also put her medal count for the Haywood Nationals in double digits – 10 for her career.
As is sometimes the case in national championships, Nishikawa actually finished second in the race behind American Chelsea Holmes, but took gold as the top Canadian.
“I was just thrilled. It was one of my goals to become a national champion and I did that,” said Nishikawa of Sunday’s 10-kilometre skate. “Even though I finished second in the race, I still skied fairly well, so I was really happy with my race.”
Nishikawa, who won three of the Yukon’s five medals at the Canada Winter Games last month in Nova Scotia, opened Haywood with a gold, winning the open women’s team sprint with teammate Janelle Greer, on Saturday.
“We skied really well, so we came out on top that day, which is really cool,” said Nishikawa.
Also starting the weeklong event on the right foot were Dahria Beatty and Kendra Murray in the challenge girls’ division (juniors), winning gold.
The Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club’s best result on the men’s side was seventh by David Greer and John Parry in the open category.
The medals continued to come the following day. Along with Nishikawa’s gold, Beatty won silver in the junior women division’s 10-kilometre skate, while Murray won her first individual medal at the national level in junior girls.
“It was a huge surprise with Kendra,” said Whitehorse head coach Alain Masson. “It was her best race at the national level, for sure.”
Despite often being stronger in classic than skate, Whitehorse failed to medal in Tuesday’s races.
Nishikawa had the best result, coming sixth in the open women’s 10-kilometre event.
“It was kind of a weird day; it was hot and there was unusual snow for Canmore,” said Nishikawa. “It was tricky waxing today and I didn’t have the greatest skis.”
Other top results include Beatty taking seventh, Janelle Greer taking 11th and Heidi Brook taking 15th, all in the junior women, while teammate Katie Peters took 10th in junior girls.
On the men’s side, David Greer was 12th in the senior men’s 15-kilometre race while Parry was 20th. In junior men, Whitehorse’s Logan Potter was 10th and teammate Fabian Brook was 17th in the junior boys’ 7.5-kilometre classic.
“It was a great day for some of our athletes, but the ones who were winning medals on the weekend weren’t today,” said Masson.
Like the Canada Winter Games a few weeks back, the men’s team is once again hampered by illness.
“David (Greer) got pneumonia after the Games, so he’s been on antibiotics until recently,” said Masson. “Knute (Johnsgaard) has been sick since he came back from the tour he did in Europe in February. Collin Abbott came here sick after the Canada Games and just started antibiotics yesterday, so he’s not racing well also.
“Our men’s team is in rough shape physically. If you show up here not healthy, you are not going to ski very well – it’s too competitive. But John Parry has been skiing very well so far this week.”
Whitehorse skiers will be back on the trails with the 700 elite skiers from throughout North America at the Canmore Nordic Centre for classic sprint races on Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Nishikawa. “I like sprinting and I’m decent in classic, so it should be good.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com