Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for December 11, 2013

Yukon XC skiers glide to medals as NorAms begin

Canada’s competitive cross-country skiing season got off to a chilly start in Vernon, B.C. over the weekend.

By Marcel Vander Wier on December 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

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Photo submitted

STRONG START – Whitehorse skier Graham Nishikawa, right, earned a bronze medal in the open men’s 15-km free race at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre in Vernon, B.C. On Saturday. The race was the first of the new Haywood NorAm season. Photo courtesy JULIE MELANSON

Canada’s competitive cross-country skiing season got off to a chilly start in Vernon, B.C. over the weekend.

Temperatures of -18 C wreaked all sorts of havoc on the first races on the Haywood NorAm schedule, with only the open class heats eventually getting underway Saturday at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre.

The frigid temperatures didn’t seem to hamper Whitehorse skiers on the trails, however. Dahria Beatty scored a gold, and local ski siblings Graham and Emily Nishikawa each added another bronze to their extensive collection of medals.

Beatty, 19, won her medal Sunday in the junior women’s 1.2-kilometre sprint race. The race was part of a selection process for the World Junior team, scheduled to compete in Val di Fiemme,  Italy in late January.

Beatty also finished 12th in the open women’s 10-km race on Saturday, the same race in which Emily Nishikawa placed fifth.

The 24-year-old Nishikawa won bronze in the senior women’s 1.2-km classic sprint Sunday.

Graham Nishikawa, 30, earned the Yukon’s first medal of the season with a bronze in the open men’s 15-km free race Saturday, finishing just 4.5 seconds off the pace with a time of 41:07.8. He was also the top Canadian.

“It was nice to race, even though it was pretty frigid out there, but still a great event,” he said post-race. “It wasn’t actually that slow. You had to be really quick tempo, but there was actually a bit of speed on the downhill.”

Nishikawa finished eighth in Sunday’s senior men’s 1.4-km sprint.

Knute Johnsgaard of the Yukon Elite Squad finished fourth in that event, while fellow skier Colin Abbott fended off a cold to claim 12th.

Johnsgaard, 21, skied to a ninth-place finish in the open men’s 15-km race a day earlier, crossing the finish line in 43:00.9.

“I think it was a good start to the season,” Cross Country Yukon head coach Alain Masson told the Star. “I think everybody was happy.”

Masson said he was pleased with Beatty’s solid start, after she struggled out of the gate last season.

The NorAm circuit races will continue this weekend in Rossland, B.C., where temperatures are expected to be -10 C or higher.

Abbott is recovering well, Masson said, and is looking forward to some longer distance skiing.

The Nishikawas are Olympic hopefuls and are preparing to compete in the national team trials Jan. 8 to 12 in Canmore, Alta.

“I think Graham and Emily don’t feel like they’re at the top of their shape yet, but they don’t want to be at this time of the year, so I think they were happy with the results,” Masson said. “Their training plans are more designed ... with them hoping to do better in January.”

In para-nordic action, Whitehorse’s Stephanie Dixon qualified for her heats in her first IPC World Cup start in the women’s sit-ski race in Canmore.

The former swim coach and paralympic swimmer was eliminated in the opening round and placed eighth. She is participating in her first season of para-nordic racing with hopes of competing in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

– With files by Cross Country Canada

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