With no rest for the cross-country ski circuit heading into the final three weeks of the World Cup, Whitehorse skier Dahria Beatty prepares for her next races in Finland, while still reflecting on her dream come true in South Korea.
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid and to be able to represent Canada and share the experience with Emily and Knute and the rest of my teammates was something that was really special,” Beatty told the Star from Finland.
The Games were something Beatty has been working towards since she was a young skier on the trails of Mount McIntrye with the Yukon ski team.
“It was also incredible the amount of support and energy coming from the community and all across Canada just people writing to me to wish me good luck and that’s always really cool to realize actually how many people are watching,” she said.
Beatty was joined on the Canadian Olympic team by two other Yukoners, Knute Johnsgaard and Emily Nishikawa in her second Olympics.
After the three athletes were named to the team, the territory immediately showed their support through t-shirts and cutouts of the athletes making their way across the city to different businesses.
“The support and the excitement over the Games from Whitehorse has been absolutely incredible. I can’t imagine a better community and I feel really honoured to be a part of it,” Beatty said. “Emily and I would always see the pictures of the cutouts going around to different places and the notes from different companies and departments around Whitehorse and reading each different one it means so much and it really made it all the more special.”
What made the Games all the more special for the Whitehorse community was the announcement that Beatty and Nishikawa would be the two competitors for the women’s team sprint for Canada.
“Doing a race like that with someone who you’ve built through the years with and being able to feel like you’re representing not only Canada in that moment but also the Yukon and Whitehorse and the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club is really an exciting feeling and one that really motivated us during the race,” she said. “That was the first time we’ve ever done a team sprint together internationally. We’ve done team sprints together multiple times at national championships for Team Yukon so it was cool to finally be able to do one together as Team Canada.”
Nishikawa, in her second Games, echoed Beatty’s sentiment of that race being a highlight for the two Yukoners.
“That was really special. To be on the team sprint team with Dahria was such a great feeling and we’ve had so much support from everyone in the Yukon it just made it such an incredible experience,” she said.
The Olympic veteran was the only member of Canada’s cross-country ski team, men and women, to compete in all six races.
Because of that, Nishikawa said she was focused on recovering and getting ready for her next races so was unable to attend any other sports, but did watch from her room.
She was able to join Team Canada for the closing ceremonies along with Beatty and the rest of the cross-country ski team.
“Canada walked in as one huge group and that was I think really really special and really cool and being able to share that with my friends and teammates, it was a great way to close out the Games,” Beatty said of the closing ceremonies experience.
Beatty was able to attend a few other sporting events as she didn’t compete in the final race of the Games. She attended the women’s hockey gold-medal game in which Canada lost in heartbreaking fashion to the United States in a shootout as well as the alpine team event.
Beatty said it was a great experience to be surrounded by other Canadian athletes in different sports and being able to cheer them on throughout the Games at the Canada Olympic House.
Nishikawa closed out the Games with her top individual performance coming in 30th place in the 30-km classic.
“I skied a really good race too, I was in 27th for most of it. We had challenging conditions with snow changing a little bit as the race went on and I was struggling to make my skis kick at the very end. But I did everything I could and to come away with a top 30 is a big highlight for me,” she said.
Overall, Nishikawa said she was happy with her performance in all six races and the improvements she made from the 2014 Games.
“I was really focused on just skiing my very best in each race and having performances I could be proud of and no matter what the placing was as long as I have accomplished my goal and happy with the way I skied the race,” she said. “I executed each one to my very best and I was just thrilled with that.”
Also in Finland for the upcoming World Cup event this weekend, Nishikawa said she is looking forward to the 10-km classic race as well as the major Holmenkollen 30-km race in Oslo, Norway the following weekend, which is a major event for the massive ski community. The World Cup circuit comes to a close March 16-18 in Falun, Sweden with three races as part of the World Cup Finals.
But there is also another competition Nishikawa will be keeping her eyes on in the coming weeks, that being the Paralymic Games with her brother Graham Nishikawa racing as a guide with skier Brian McKeever.
“Brian’s so decorated and so I can’t wait to see what they do at the Paralympics. The whole Paralympic team is really strong so I’m excited to see all of their results. I’ll be following closely,” she said noting she has been in frequent contact with her brother.
With the Paralymics taking place on the same trails in Pyeongchang, Nishikawa said she was telling her brother of the conditions – with the snow getting softer toward the end of the Games due to warmer spring-like weather.
Reflecting on her experience, Beatty said it was the Olympic stage that made it different from the World Cup circuit.
“The biggest difference is they only happen once every four years and that puts a pressure on it,” she said. “It is a stage that only comes around every so often and all the extras that come with the Games that just make it a little bit different.”