Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for February 12, 2014

Another Nishikawa gets call to Sochi

Graham Nishikawa is going to Sochi after all.

By Marcel Vander Wier on February 12, 2014 at 4:13 pm

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Photo submitted

HEADED TO SOCHI – Whitehorse cross-country skier Graham Nishikawa will be in Sochi for the Paralympics next month, working as a guide for blind skiers. Photo courtesy MARTINE ZILLIGEN/CROSS COUNTRY CANADA

Graham Nishikawa is going to Sochi after all.

The elder brother of Olympic cross-country skier Emily Nishikawa has been named to the Canadian Paralympic ski team, where he will serve as a guide skier for Robbi Weldon of Thunder Bay, Ont.

Weldon is a blind female skier.

The 30-year-old Nishikawa will also serve as a back-up guide for 10-time medallist Brian McKeever of Canmore, Alta.

“It was in the cards for a long time,” Nishikawa told the Star, when reached in Canmore this morning. “I’m very honoured to be nominated and I’m really excited. It’s a bit different focus now for me and it feels good to be able to help out.”

Nishikawa had originally hoped to be competing in the Olympics alongside his sister, but failed to perform up to the best of his abilities at the Olympic trials last month.

However, he was back to his usual self on the Haywood NorAms last week, winning two races and finishing another in second.

“My body just wasn’t responding,” he said of the Olympic trials. “Then a couple of weeks later I went to the Easterns and I was definitely at a high level. It always feels good when you’re in good shape, and I will try to stay in this shape for the rest of the season.”

The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will be held from March 7 to 16. Canada has a goal of finishing in the top three in terms of gold medal count.

The team of 14 was named yesterday in Lake Louise, Alta.

Besides McKeever and Weldon, the team also includes Mark Arendz (P.E.I.), Chris Klebl (Alta.), Brittany Hudak (Sask.), Caroline Bisson (Ont.), Yves Bourque (Que.), Sébastien Fortier (Que.), Louis Fortin (N.B.), Margarita Gorbounova (Ont.), and guides Erik Carleton (Alta.), Colette Bourgonje (Sask.) and Andrea Bundon (Sask.).

The team will be coached by Robin McKeever (Alta.) and Kaspar Wirz (Sask.).

“These athletes represent one of the most talented groups of para-Nordic athletes that we have ever sent to a Games,” said team leader Mike Edwards, assistant high-performance director of Cross Country Canada.

Nishikawa said as a guide skier, he races shortly in front of a Paralympic athlete, shouting out commands and warnings concerning changes in terrain. From the lead position, Nishikawa will point out obstacles or routes around rival skiers.

“If there’s tight corners coming up, I holler directions,” he explained.

Paralympic skiers are able to draft behind their guide skiers in order to face less wind resistance on the trail.

Nishikawa said he’s looking forward to the experience in Russia.

“It has no bearing on my personal goals in racing, but it’s pretty inspiring to be around these guys,” he said. “If they need my help, I’m available to help other people try and reach their goals.

“It’s a nice change, after racing for myself for so long,” he said.

Former Paralympic swimmer, Stephanie Dixon of Whitehorse, will also be in Sochi for the Games, but not as an athlete.

Dixon will serve as a correspondent for Yahoo Sports, in what is expected to be the most heavily-covered Paralympics on record.

The 30-year-old Dixon was originally attempting to return to the Paralympics as a cross-country skier.

“I worked my butt off,” she told the Star recently. “I just didn’t feel that I was able to get myself to a level where I could go and be competitive.”

Dixon added she is still aiming to make a splash in the sport in hopes of representing Canada again one day in the future.

CommentsAdd a comment

Karen Walker

Feb 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Graham, we could not be prouder of you!

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