Emily Nishikawa starts the second leg of the relay as Dahria Beatty finishes her leg at the PyeongChang Olympics in Feb. 2018. (Bob Nishikawa/Yukon News file)

World Cup season just around the corner for Yukon skiers

“I know I still really love to ski race and I feel like I haven’t reached my potential”

The World Cup may kick off in Ruka, Finland, on Nov. 24 but Yukoners Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty are both easing into this season’s cross-country skiing schedule.

“My coach and I made the decision to start the season this year a little bit differently than I have the last two years,” said Beatty, explaining she plans to stay in Canada and race the first two events of the NorAm circuit in Vernon, B.C., and Whistler, B.C., respectively.

“We decided to take a little bit more of a build into the season and try to really fine-tune a couple of things I’ve been working on this summer in smaller races here where my coach is actually with me,” said Beatty.

While Beatty is targeting the Tour de Ski in Italy at the end of December for her season debut, Nishikawa is aiming to get into World Cup action just a little bit sooner — Dec. 8 at the event in Beitostolen, Norway.

“I’ve had a really focused summer of training,” said Nishikawa. “I’ve been able to focus on some of my weaknesses and just get into better fitness than I’ve ever been in for the start of the race season. … I hope to be moving well then and get some good results early season to kind of set myself up for the rest of the season.”

Both Nishikawa and Beatty said the focus for the season is to be in peak form when the World Ski Championships roll around the last week of February in Seefeld, Austria.

“There is a 10-km classic there that is one of my favourite races, so I’ve been focusing on that race with the plan to be there and be my very best on that day,” said Nishikawa.

Like Nishikawa, Beatty has a specific race in mind.

“The skate sprint at the World Championships is an event I’m targeting to try to peak for because it was a course I really did well on last year,” said Beatty. “I’m taking a bit of a slower start into the season so that I can hopefully be at my strongest at the end of February.”

Other than the World Ski Championships, Beatty said the final World Cup event of the season in Quebec City is one she’s hoping to excel at.

“(It’s) the last World Cup of the year and my parents will be coming to watch,” said Beatty. “It would be amazing to perform very strongly at home in Canada.”

The trio of Yukoners on the World Cup circuit is down to two this year after Knute Johnsgaard announced his retirement in April, and both Beatty and Nishikawa said he will be missed as a teammate.

“Competitive sport, especially amateur sport, we’re not doing it to make money — we’re doing it because we love it,” said Beatty. “You have to dedicate your entire life to it and you have to sacrifice a lot of other parts … It was amazing having Knute as a teammate, but I also know he has so many other passions and strengths in life that it’s hard to put those on hold forever.”

Nishikawa said being at the Olympics with Johnsgaard and Beatty was something special.

“I was so grateful I got to go to the (Olympic) Games with him and Dahria. I think that was probably the highlight for me,” said Nishikawa. “He brought a lot of great energy so we definitely miss him, but I know he’s happy doing his thing.”

Looking back on the 2018 Olympics, both Beatty and Nishikawa said they’re motivated to get back to work.

“There is a bit of a comedown after the Olympics for sure,” said Nishikawa. “I took a bit of time this spring and I know I still really love to ski race and I feel like I haven’t reached my potential, so I think that is the exciting part — I can set new goals and it all starts again.”

Beatty echoed the sentiment that there was more to be done.

“I think in a way experiencing the Olympics and competing at the Olympics has just motivated me to really want to go again in four years and perform better than I did this last time,” said Beatty. “It was a great experience but I would love for my Olympic memories when I’m a retired athlete to be being there and competing for the podium.”

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

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