With just under two months to go before the cross-country skiing World Cup competition starts for another year in Ruka, Finland, Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty and Emily Nishikawa both say excitement is building for another season on the Canadian national team.
“It’s definitely still exciting,” said Beatty. “I’m definitely — at least to date — always excited for a new season and really looking forward to it.”
Nishikawa echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time, but it is still very exciting and the same kind of feelings you get every year,” said Nishikawa, explaining it’s a mixture of nerves, uncertainty and hope. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, I’ve been doing this for a long time; I’m totally used to this.’ I still approach every new season with the same excitement.”
The cross-country skiing schedule is split into four-year blocks with the Winter Olympics serving as the pinnacle. The upcoming season is unique in that it is the only year in the cycle without either a World Championships or an Olympics — the World Championships are held every two years in odd-numbered years.
The result of that is skiers are left to find their own focus for the year, rather than being forced to try to be at their best for a particular event.
Both Beatty and Nishikawa will start the World Cup season at the Davos, Switzerland, event in December along with the rest of the national team but will both be home for Christmas.
While the holiday season is usually occupied by the Tour de Ski, the multi-stage event isn’t on the Canadian calendar this year.
“I’m planning Christmas in Whitehorse, which will be really nice,” said Nishikawa. “Because we’re not doing the Tour de Ski this year, we’ll have some time to get home. I haven’t been home for Christmas in a while.”
Beatty is also planning to be home for Christmas, taking advantage of the break between the World Cup events in Planica, Slovenia, and Dresden, Germany.
The World Cup shifts to North America in March, with events in Quebec, Minnesota and Alberta – and both Beatty and Nishikawa have goals for that phase of the season.
For Beatty, it’s the sprint races in Quebec and Minneapolis, Minn.
“There are two spring races in Quebec City and then one in Minneapolis,” said Beatty. “Those three races, they’re creating into a mini sprint event with an overall standing, and so that will be a big focus for me this year.”
She considers herself an all-around athlete, but Beatty admits she often puts more focus on sprint events because of her greater success on the international level.
“There are a few sprint race weekends in a row in January, including one that is at the venue of the World Championships next year,” said Beatty. “I’m hoping to use those to do well but also to kind of figure out the course for next year.”
The 2021 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships are next winter in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Like Beatty, Nishikawa is also keyed in on a new series on the calendar.
The Ski Tour 2020 is a series of six races throughout Sweden and Norway, similar to the Tour de Ski held in central Europe each year.
“It’s a stage race, so each stage is cumulative and you have to complete each stage before moving on to the next one,” explained Nishikawa. “I think that’s an event that suits me very well. They’re more grueling than a typical World Cup weekend in that you have to get six races done over a short amount of time and there is all that stress of the travel in between. … I learned a lot last year at the Tour de Ski and I think that’s going to help me do the Ski Tour this year.”
So while on paper this year may lack a clear focus, it’s readily apparent there is no lack of focus.
Beatty said she has lots she wants to accomplish in the sport.
“I’m hoping over the next few seasons leading up to the next Olympics I’m able to check some things off that list each season and keep making gains to be in a place for the next winter Olympics that I feel a lot more prepared and in a place where I can be a lot more competitive,” said Beatty.
Nishikawa said the training and preparation for the season doesn’t let up.
“Not too much changes in terms of training,” said Nishikawa. “You still prepare the same way you would for World Championships or Olympics, but you’re just preparing for a different event.”
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