The cross country ski team had their trials for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games over two days from Dec. 14-15.
Prospective skiers competed in a classic technique and free technique race.
Those chosen for the team, which will be finalized Monday, were selected based on their times. Coach Alain Masson said this made the trials “totally objective.”
There were 44 athletes who vied for a spot on the team across three different age groups. The Arctic Winter Games has U14, U16 and U18 age categories. Masson said it was a lot of athletes.
“It was a huge increase compared to other years,” said Masson. “I think that’s been true across many sports seeing more participation.”
Masson guessed that numbers are up at trials because the Games are being hosted in Whitehorse and there is more awareness and drive to try out for a spot on a team.
The cross country competition at the Games is one of the sporting events with the most participants. Each contingent can bring eight athletes per age group for a total of 24 skiers.
All nine contingents are expected to be bringing a cross country team.
Masson said the Yukon team will be close to bringing the max amount of skiers but may fall just short.
The Games begin March 15, and Masson said training hasn’t stopped: “We haven’t missed a workout.”
Masson has gone to most of the Games in the past 25 years. At the 2018 Games in the South Slave Region, he said it was one of the better outings for Yukon athletes with lots of medals won.
He believes for the Whitehorse Games, the Yukon will have a good mix of experience and rookies.
“We have some high-level athletes and new U14 athletes who are less experienced,” said Masson. “That’s what these Games have been so great historically for. It’s a good event to introduce U14s to a multi-sport games.
“Some of them will rise and will be the high-calibre athletes at the next Games. They all need to start somewhere.”
In his experience, Masson said Alaska tends to send a strong youth team.
“Alaska has the best athletes at U14,” said Masson when asked which contingent is usually strongest. “The older groups depends, Russia, Greenland and the Scandinavians are strong.
“It’s very competitive at the top and you’ll see strong results from the more accomplished skiers.”
Masson said for those who want to watch the cross country skiing they can expect the Yukoners to be strong competitors. He said the sprint, which all takes place in the stadium is a fun format for people to watch.
By the time March rolls around, he said it should be nice and warm, perfect to watch the cross country skiing.
The cross country competition consists of four events: interval start, mass start, relay and a sprint for each athlete.