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Yukon skiers add bronze to medal count with relay race

On the final day of competition, Yukon athletes made one last trip to the podium to end the Canada Winter Games on Saturday.


On the final day of competition, Yukon athletes made one last trip to the podium to end the Canada Winter Games on Saturday.

Yukon cross-country skiers claimed bronze in the 4x3.75-kilometre women’s relay to secure the territory’s eighth and last medal in Prince George.

Kendra Murray, Hannah Deuling, Natalie Hynes and Annah Hanthorn teamed up to win bronze in the event in which the first two ski classic and the next two free technique.

It was the first medal of the Games for Deuling, who skied Leg 2, and Hynes, who skied Leg 3.

“It feels great. The team did really well, it was really fun,” said Deuling. “The team relays are always really exciting.

“The transition was really exciting because I had to tag Natalie and I was classic and she was skating. So that was kind of hectic, but we managed to get it done.”

“It’s an amazing feeling, especially working together as a team to achieve those goals,” said Hynes.

The four Yukoners finished the race in 42:09.60, just 11 seconds behind silver-winning B.C. and 1:08 ahead of Alberta in fourth. Quebec took the gold at 41:25.40.

“We knew we had a chance at a medal if things lined up and everything went according to plan,” said Yukon head coach Alain Masson. “We’re extremely happy. I think the athletes skied as well as they could - both the men and women, actually.

“That’s probably as good as we could do with the men. We have three junior boys and only one senior.”

For the second Canada Winter Games in a row, the Yukon men’s relay team came up one position short of a medal. Knute Johnsgaard, Caelan McLean, Marcus Deuling and Mac Prawdzick raced to a fourth-place result in the 4x5-kilometre relay, coming in 42 seconds behind B.C. in third.

“I’m really happy and proud of all the guys,” said Johnsgaard. “Fourth place was kind of the most we could hope for. With the exception of myself, the guys are really young and have another Canada Games ahead of them. The other teams are older and much more experienced and have a lot more years of training under them. The guys skied well and we’re really happy with fourth place.”

“They were fighting with B.C., who has all senior athletes and most of them being national level athletes, so the fact that we stayed competitive with them is remarkable,” said Masson.

The Yukon ski team won a total of four medals, half of Yukon’s hardware at the Games.

In fact, seven of Yukon’s eight medals were won at the Otway Nordic Ski Centre in Prince George. Yukon biathlete Nadia Moser captured three medals in week one there, taking in a silver and two bronze. The one Yukon medal not won on the snow at Otway came from figure skater Rachel Pettitt, who won gold in novice ladies on Thursday.

Yukon’s medal haul in Prince George is its largest in 24 years. It’s the most medals won by Yukon at the Canada Games since 1991 when the territory captured 17, with four gold, 10 silver and three bronze.

Johnsgaard, Hanthorn and Murray all climbed the podium following the first races at the start of last week.

Johnsgaard raced to gold in the men’s 10-kilometre classic, while Hanthorn and Murray won gold and bronze, respectively, in the women’s 7.5-kilometre classic on Feb. 23.

“I definitely didn’t think of the outcome, I thought of the process during the race, just racing my very best,” said Hanthorn, after stepping off the podium. “It’s exciting that became a gold medal.”

Yukon skiers were contenders in every event they raced in Prince George. After taking gold on Monday, Hanthorn took fourth in the sprint on Feb. 24 and then fourth - by a boot length - in the 10-kilometre free on Thursday. Murray placed sixth and fifth in the same races.

Johnsgaard came fourth in the sprint and sixth in the men’s 15-kilometre free on Thursday.

“I’ve kind of put that race behind me as well as the sprint,” said Johnsgaard. “I’m just happy with my one gold medal. It’s too bad I couldn’t bring home a few more, but it’s been a great week and it doesn’t always work out exactly how you want it to.”

All five of Yukon’s female skiers had their best individual result in the 7.5-kilometre classic, with Natalie Hynes in eighth, Adrienne Hynes 11th and Hannah Deuling 15th.

Marcus Deuling took 14th in the 15-kilometre free, McLean 16th in the 10-kilometre classic, Prawdzik 19th in the 15-kilometre free and Simon Cash 25th in the sprint for their best individual results.

“It makes me proud to be a Yukoner, just walking around in all the Yukon gear,” said Natalie. “People just stop you because your jacket says Yukon and they’re interested to talk to you - that’s a really cool feeling.

“Everyone has been super welcoming, loads of volunteers making it such a great time. I hope, maybe at another time, to be back.”

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