Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for March 26, 2012

Whitehorse ski team places second overall in the nation

At the Haywood Ski Nationals in Quebec this past week, the Whitehorse team uncovered a trail that lead directly to the podium.

By Sam Riches on March 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm

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Photo submitted

PODIUM FINISHES – Fabian Brook and Knute Johnsgaard (left) pose with their hardware from the Haywood Ski Nationals. Dahria Beatty, top right, stands atop the podium after winning gold in the junior women’s 5-km race while Johnsgaard collected gold in the junior men’s 10-km event. Photos courtesy of DAVID GREER

At the Haywood Ski Nationals in Quebec this past week, the Whitehorse team uncovered a trail that lead directly to the podium.

The team collected eight medals, posted great results across the board and placed second overall in the country, Yukon’s best ever finish at the national event.

Sixty-six clubs were represented at the week-long event. Only the Nakkertok club from the Ottawa-Gatineau region bettered the points count collected by the local club.

“The team has consistently been in the top five for the last 10 years but this was by far the best finish as a team,” said Alain Maisson, Yukon’s head coach and wax tech.

“We didn’t have as many athletes as the other clubs so it was really good to be able to finish second.”

Maisson said the skiers were challenged by mild weather, with temperatures reaching as high as 20 degrees Celsius.

The skiers were forced to adapt in the “wet and dirty snow” and change their technical approach.

“Some of our senior skiers had experienced similar weather before but it was good for the younger skiers to learn how to adapt,” said Maisson.

Despite having less experience racing in the mild conditions, the team’s younger skiers were able to find their rhythm early on in the week.

Fabian Brook, starting in his first individual race, won gold in the junior boys 10-kilometre distance while Katie Peters posted four top ten finishes.

“Katie had never cracked the top 10 in nationals before so it was a real breakthrough,” said Maisson. “Overall, it was great to see all of the team doing so well.”

The team also earned podium finishes from David Greer, Dahria Beatty, Knute Johnsgaard, Janelle Greer, and Emily and Graham Nishikawa.

Maisson said the strong performances from every member of the team show the depth and quality of the local ski program.

“I’ve been coaching this team since 1995 and it’s by far the best season we’ve ever had at both the national and international level,” said Maisson. “I’m really happy to see all these years of training, planning and coordination paying off with a lot of great performances from our athletes.

“It’s very satisfying to see where the program was in 1995 and now in 2012.”

Maisson said an outpouring of community support over the years has strengthened the team and given it the necessary resources needed to compete.

“We have great volunteers and amazing support from the community,” he said.

“We’ve been very well supported financially from the Yukon sports branch and we have one of the best volunteer bases of any sport in the Yukon. We have a great ski club in Whitehorse, fantastic trails and better snow than most clubs in the country. There are so many factors that go into the success.”

Graham Nishikawa, 28, has been involved with the ski team since he was 14 years old.

In that time, he has seen incredible growth in the program.

“It’s a great ski community that supports the program,” he said. “There’s great leadership with Alain and the coaching staff and all the volunteers that help out.”

Graham also credited the structure of the program in aiding the success of the younger skiers.

“The right structure is really key so all the kids move up in the program. It grows with success at the top, the younger kids can see they can make that jump so it helps itself grow.”

Maisson said the athletes based in Whitehorse also received excellent preparation for the nationals through the Arctic Winter Games.

“It allowed them to maintain a really high level of performance into March,” he said of the Games.

“In the past some of the athletes have finished the season really tired but preparation this year has been really strong and we’ve had great finishes.”

On the third day of competition, Emily Nishikawa won gold in the senior women’s 10-km race, a performance that she referred to as one of her best ever.

“I was super pumped with that finish,” she said.

“It was probably the best race of my life.”

Emily said the field of competition was the strongest she’d ever seen it at the event.

“All the best Canadians were there, as well as a few Americans and Norwegians so it was a super strong field,” she said.

Competing in the mild weather was also a first for Emily, who said the snow was very slow at points.

“It was like racing in slush,” she said. “People were wearing tank tops and shorts. It was different. I’d never had a ski race at 20 degrees before.”

With strong performances coming from every member of the team, Emily credited the depth of the Yukon program.

“The Yukon ski team is amazing,” she said. “We had so many different people on the podium and it shows the depth of the program. For our club to finish second overall is amazing, it’s really cool to be a part of.

“It’s been a long time coming, we used to have one or two really good athletes but now the younger generation is stepping up as well and it’s great to see.”

Graham also credited the skills of Maisson in the team’s success.

“Our coach is one of the best wax techs in the country so we had really great skis from him and the results show the depth of the Yukon program,” he said.

“Everyday all the Yukoners were doing amazing so it was a great week for us. It was an incredibly successful season for the team.”

The team will officially conclude their season this weekend at the Yukon Cross Country Ski Championships being held on Saturday at the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club.

CommentsAdd a comment

Michael McCann

Mar 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm

One can not stress enough the professionalism, knowledge, skill, wisdom, passion and dedication that Alain Masson brings to the ski team and cross country skiiing in Yukon.

Not only has he represented Canada at three Olympics as an athlete (both summer and winter) he is the guy they call to wax skis for the national team at World and Olympic events. I would say he is not just the best waxer in Canada but one of the absolute best in the world.

The Yukon is so incredibly lucky to have this quiet modest man helping and guiding its youth.

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