Whitehorse Daily Star

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ON THE PODIUM – Amanda Thomson, seen here at the Arctic Winter Games trials earlier this month, won a silver and bronze medal at the Western Canadian Championships.

Skiers bring home five medals from Western Canadians

With Whitehorse cross country skiers preparing to represent on the world stage at the Olympics, the younger squad members are showing their stuff on the Canadian circuit.

By Dustin Cook on January 26, 2018

With Whitehorse cross country skiers preparing to represent on the world stage at the Olympics, the younger squad members are showing their stuff on the Canadian circuit.

The team brought home five medals from the Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships in Red Deer Jan. 19-21 – a pre-cursor to the 2019 Canada Winter Games to be held on the same trails.

Yukon Ski Team head coach Alain Masson said he was very pleased with the results from his nine-member ski team competing in the junior and juvenile divisions.

“It was a great event and the team did very well,” Masson said on the phone from Europe where he is with the Team Canada junior and U23 teams gearing up for the World Championships. “It was a good opportunity as the races took place where the Canada Winter Games will take place next year.”

The first day of competition saw the sprint race, which Masson noted is not the main focus for many of the athletes, but the high-level talent led to breakthrough performances for the team led by junior Amanda Thomson who took home silver in the sprint free 800-metre event.

Thomson had the fastest overall time in both the qualifying and semifinal races before falling in the final by .32 seconds.

But this didn’t deter the young skier who also recently participated in the Canadian junior team trials in Quebec.

The next day in the mass start 10-km classic race, Thomson raced to a bronze medal, two seconds back of second place and 22 seconds ahead of the next closest competitor.

“Those were really good results for Amanda and a breakthrough in sprinting,” Masson said.

Hannah Jirousek, Thomson’s teammate in the junior girl’s division, finished 11th in the classic race.

On the boys side, Derek Deuling won gold in the juvenile boy’s 5-km classic race in climactic fashion.

Deuling was in second place after the first 2.5-km lap before racing his second lap in under seven minutes, the only racer to do so to win the gold.

He also won the B Final race for the sprint competition.

“It was great,” Masson said of Deuling’s performance. “Some of the skiers in his category are very competitive in Canada and it’s the first time Derek was ahead of them.”

Victor Emile-Thibeault finished in sixth for the Yukon in the distance race behind Deuling with Ben Puskas and Sasha Masson rounding out the strong juvenile boy’s team in 13th and 15th place respectively – out of 57 finishers.

The final day saw relay action in the skate technique and Masson said the goal was to form teams so everybody had the experience of competing in the relay format.

For two teams, this meant pairing with athletes from the Northwest Territories to compete in the three-member races.

On the junior boys side, the joint team – named The Dirty North – finished in third place with each skier completing a 3.3-kilometre loop.

Yukoners Nicollis Schmidt and Puskas, who is actually of juvenile age but competed up a level for the relay, were joined by Nicholas Bennet from N.W.T, who they have never skied with before.

Schmidt also made it to the sprint final in the junior boy’s division finishing in fifth spot.

The “Yukon Do It” juvenile boy’s team consisting of Deuling, Emile-Thibeault and Masson, took home the silver medal finishing behind a team from Alberta.

Masson said the strong result at the championships is up there with the best results the team has produced at the meet in recent years and a good sign moving forward as the team usually performs better later on in the season.

“It was very encouraging and nice to see athletes do well on trails that the Canada Games will be on,” he said.

The busy season for the squad will continue as they look ahead to the B.C. Championships in February before heading down to Thunder Bay, Ont. for the national championships March 10-17.

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