World championships were ‘amazing’: Nishikawa

Whitehorse skiers Graham and Emily Nishikawa weren't in top form at the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships last week in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Whitehorse skiers Graham and Emily Nishikawa weren’t in top form at the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships last week in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

But the chance to compete against the best at a world championships was a great experience, said Graham.

“It was amazing week for me,” he said. “I’m really tired right now, but it was an amazing experience. Some highs and lows.

“I’m just overall really happy.”

The Nishikawas finished the world championships with a pair of distance races over the weekend.

Skiing in unusually warm conditions at 11 Celsius, Emily was lapped out of the 30-kilometre classic on Saturday and did not finish.

Graham placed 48th out of 73 skiers in the 50-kilometre classic on Sunday.

“The 50-kilometre was the hardest race I’ve ever done,” said Graham.

Graham also placed 39th out of 95 skiers in the men’s 15-kilometre skate race on Feb. 27. The 29-year-old opened the championships with 52nd in the men’s 30-kilometre skiathlon on Feb. 23.

Both Nishikawas were sick going into the championships. But that’s sometimes the nature of the beast in a winter sport, with people travelling in from around the world for the event.

“It was a little disappointing to come in sick,” said Graham. “I am really happy with the skate race – 39th and 20 seconds from where my goal was. I was definitely strong there; I am happy with that race.

“But you can’t control getting sick. It happens. It’s been a long year with a lot of travel.

“But looking back, it was a really great experience. And it was cool that my sister was there, and my parents were able to come from Whitehorse to see us.”

The Nishikawas weren’t the only ones dealing with illness. So many Canadian skiers were under the weather by the end of the championships, Emily was the only Canadian in Saturday’s race.

Canada’s Brittany Webster was sidelined with illness Thursday, leaving Canada’s relay team a skier short for the women’s 4×5-kilometre relay. However, the remaining three, including Emily, raced without her for the heck of it.

The team was in the 12th spot when they had to withdraw from the event after three legs.

“Unfortunately our fourth skier, Brittany Webster, woke up sick this morning so we knew we would have to pull out after the third leg,” said Emily last week. “Even though we didn’t finish, Daria (Gaiazova), Perianne (Jones) and I all had solid races. Had we finished it would have been one of our best relay results in a long time. So it was a pretty positive day.”

In her previous races, Emily placed 57th in the sprint race on Feb. 21 and 57th in the 10-kilometre free on Feb. 26. She did not finish in the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon on Feb. 23.

Graham is now home preparing for the Haywood Ski Nationals later this month in Whistler, B.C.

“Emily was able to keep her lead in the (Haywood) NorAms, so she’s staying over the World Cups,” said Graham. “There were races I missed, so that’s why I came home.

“I’m just going to focus on nationals and try to have a strong week.

“And then it’s on to next year, trying to qualify for the Olympics.”

Just making it to the world championships is a massive accomplishment achieved by very few Yukon skiers.

In fact, Graham is the first male skier from the Yukon to qualify for the world championships.

Emily, 23, is the first female from the territory to reach the worlds since Olympian Lucy Steele-Masson competed in 1997.

Quebec’s Alex Harvey made history in the men’s classic sprint race on Feb. 21. Harvey won bronze for the first-ever medal won by a Canadian male in an individual race, and just the third medal ever for Canada at the world championships.

Canada also had two fourth-place finishes at the championship. Alberta’s Ivan Babikov had one in the 15-kilometre free on Feb. 27, and Harvey and teammate Devon Kershaw teamed up for fourth in the duo team sprint on Feb. 24.

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