Whitehorse Daily Star

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MAKING STRIDES – Yukon cross country skier Derek Dueling competes at the U.S. Na- tionals in Craftsbury, Vermont. The nationals were held from Jan. 3-6. Photo by ALAIN MASSON

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POWERING THROUGH – Yukon cross country skier Dahlia Lapointe competes at the U.S. Nationals in Craftsbury, Vermont. Photo by ALAIN MASSON

Yukon skiers compete internationally

The Yukon Ski Team had nine cross country athletes competing in the U.S. Nationals in Craftsbury, Vermont

By John Tonin on January 9, 2019

The Yukon Ski Team had nine cross country athletes competing in the U.S. Nationals in Craftsbury, Vermont over the weekend. Coach Alain Masson says the U.S. Nationals are a good test for the team as they move ahead in the sport.

“This is probably the most competitive race so far for all the athletes,” said Masson. “There were a lot of competitive skiers, from across the United States but also a lot from the east coast of Canada.”

The large pool of athletes in the events is why the races were chosen to compete in.

“We were looking for a high level of competition for skiers in all age groups,” said Masson.

“It is a gigantic reason for why we wanted to go.”

Masson said the skiing was good with challenging conditions. It had rained in Vermont prior to the races, but the snow eventually began to fall.

The ski team had good showings in the results even though they started near the back of the pack in the mass start races, and they are leaving with a new found confidence.

“Because they are young skiers they did not get the most favourable start positions,” said Masson. “A lot of the American skiers ski in college. The (Yukon) team is leaving feeling confident but realize the amount of work they will need to put in to reach the next level.”

On Sunday, the nine athletes competed in a free/skate technique race with a mass start.

In the U18 10-kilometre distance race, six Yukon skiers competed. Derek Dueling had the top finish for the Yukon athletes coming in 15th. He was followed by his teammates: Sasha

Masson who placed 32nd, Victor Thibeault, 42nd, Nichollis Schmidt, 53rd, Romeo Champagne, 76th, and Jamie Phillips-Freedman, 77th.

There was one Yukon skier, Caelen Mclean, in the U23 30-kilometre race. Mclean crossed the finish line in the 38th position.

Two U18 women competed in the 7.5-kilometre free/skate technique and mass start. Sonjaa Schmidt was the top Yukoner coming in 42nd. Her teammate Dahlia Lapointe placed 58th.

On Friday, the team’s second day of competition, the Yukon Ski Team athletes competed in the classic sprint races, which were interval starts. The field of skiers reached well into the hundreds.

A press release by Cross Country Yukon said, “this deep field of racers gives our team such valuable experience!”

Dueling once again led the Yukon skiers in the U18 race coming in at the 21st spot. Thibeault, 46, Sasha Masson, 48, Nichollis Schmidt, 54, Champagne, 66, and Phillips-Freedman, 69th, rounded out the field of Yukon skiers.

Mclean, skiing in the U23 race, ended the classic sprints in the 69th slot.

In the U18 women class sprints, Sonjaa Schmidt came in 32nd. Lapointe came in the 53rd position.

The first race of the U.S. Nationals the ski team competed in was on Thursday. The interval classic distance race were 15-kilometres for the men and 10-kilometres for the women. The men’s field had over 300 racers and the women’s field had over 250 racers. All of the Yukon skiers finished in the top 100.

Dueling placed in the top 10 in the U18 classic interval start coming in the eighth spot. Sasha Masson, 27th, Thibeault, 44th, Phillips-Freedman, 57th, Nichollis Schmidt, 60th, and Champagne, 74th, rounded out the Yukon ski team.

Mclean in U23 came in the 60th position.

In the U18 women’s race, Sonjaa Schmidt came in 25th and Lapointe came in 55th.

With the racers back in the Yukon they will be turning their attention to the Yukon Championships, which will see between 80-90 skiers, happening this weekend.

The skiers’ results from the U.S. Nationals will apply to their upcoming races in Canada.

The next Outside race for the ski team will be in Collingwood, Ont. The Yukon Championships and the trip to Collingwood will conclude the Canada Winter Games team as well, it will determine who will ski in the Canadian nationals in March.

Emily Nishikawa wraps up the Tour de Ski

Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa became one of only five Canadian women to complete the Tour de Ski. The tour, which is seven races over nine days in three countries, is modelled after the Tour de France. The skiers compete in a variety of competitions from sprints to mass start races.

The final leg of the ski concluded in Val di Fiemme, Italy, with the final stage being a nine-kilometre skate-ski pursuit race with the final three-kilometres a straight climb with a 28 per cent hill grade. It was this leg Nishikawa says was her best stage of the tour.

Nishikawa finished the race in the 25th spot in a time of 49:09.9.

Racing in her first Tour de Ski, Nishikawa says it was a different experience.

“It’s different but it was a really good experience,” said Nishikawa. “The seven races and the days of travel made for a really gruelling schedule which was tough on the body.”

The number of races in a short amount of time meant Nishikawa had to take a different approach to her preparations.

“It’s a different mentality, you have to get over things quickly,” said Nishikawa. “There was a big focus on recovery to get through the whole thing. Once you were done one race it was into the van to get to the next stage location. After a race, I would eat, get a massage and then rest.”

Seventy-one women began the Tour de Ski including fellow Yukoner Dahria Beatty. In the final race only 30 skiers took the trails, Nishikawa the lone Canuck.

“Lots start but many drop out,” said Nishikawa. “There is lots at play including time cuts.

Every single stage is important because your scores are cumulative so it is important to do as good as you can.”

Nishikawa says she is happy with the preparation she has had and that she is feeling healthy and her season is going well and that she is pleased with her results at the Tour de Ski.

“I’m really pleased with the way I skied,” said Nishikawa. “For me to finish and get some of my best results I’m proud of that. It was such a different experience.”

Now back in Canada, Nishikawa is taking some time to relax and recover, but says she will back on her skis soon to find that balance between resting and training.

“My next big focus is on the World Championships in Austria,” said Nishikawa. “To get the results I want I am going to take time to recover before ramping up on my training.”

The World Champions in Austria will happen in February.

This was the 13th annual Tour de Ski. Outside of the Olympics and World Championships, it is the featured event on the Nordic calendar.

Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg of Norway won the final stage of the Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme in a time of 35:15.0.

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