Emily Nishikawa starts the second leg of the relay as Dahria Beatty finishes her leg. (Bob Nishikawa/Yukon News)

Yukon well represented in Olympic ski relays

‘It’s always rewarding when you’re racing for a team’

The Canadian cross-country team was in action at the Winter Olympics as the relays took centre stage at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre over the weekend.

The women’s 4×5-km relay on Feb. 17 was a close race for gold.

Norway ultimately won the relay with a combined time of 51 minutes and 24.3 seconds, just two seconds ahead of the silver-medal winning Swedish team.

The Norwegians were in fourth place after the first two legs, but fast free-technique legs from Ragnhild Haga and Marit Bjoergen vaulted the team to the top of the podium.

The bronze medal went to the Olympic Athletes from Russia who finished 43.3 seconds off the winning pace.

Team Canada skied to a 13th place finish four minutes and 50.3 seconds behind Norway

Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty and Emily Nishikawa skied the two classic technique legs of the race, and Cendrine Browne and Anne-Marie Comeau finished the relay with the two free technique legs.

Beatty said the Canadians embraced the team concept.

“I knew that when I was out there racing today that I wasn’t just racing for myself, I was racing for all the girls,” said Beatty. “It’s always rewarding when you’re racing for a team.”

Nishikawa said on a different day, Canada might have had a different result.

“I think our team has come a long way,” said Nishikawa. “On a really good day, we could be fighting with a lot of these teams. I’m very optimistic — I think we’re all very strong racers.”

Norway continued its strong performance in the men’s 4×10-km relay on Feb. 18, winning gold again on the back of some strong free skiing in a final time of one hour, 33 minutes and 4.9 seconds.

Olympic Athletes from Russia won silver, finishing just 9.4 seconds behind the Norwegians. France was third with a time 36.9 seconds behind Norway.

Canada skied to a ninth-place finish three minutes and 41 seconds behind the winners.

Len Valjas and Graeme Killick skied the two classic legs to start the relay and Russell Kennedy skied the first free leg before Whitehorse’s Knute Johnsgaard took over for the final stretch.

The ninth-place finish was a tie with Calgary 1988 for second-best Olympic men’s relay finish. Canada’s best Olympic finish was seventh in Vancouver.

Next up for the Canadian skiers is the team sprint on Feb. 21.

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

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